Population

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

Who doesn’t love babies? I know I sure do. Some of you may claim to be that one who “can’t stand babies” but all things being serious I’m certain that experiencing the death of a baby would be far more traumatic than that of someone older. Like all species we are attached to our young with something so adhesive only Life itself could’ve come up with it. Like any animal protecting their children we can go primal when it comes to threatening their safety. The abortion issue is a clear indication of how important our children are to us, they need only be conceived and their life has become sacred.

The reason why we, as humans, all love our children; the reason why all life loves all life, particularly their own species is because it is genetically imbedded in us. To evolve we need something driving the continuation of the species – otherwise life would be a lot more of a “miss” than a “hit.” The reason why sex is so unimaginably pleasurable and seductive to us is not so much sin but instead our natural urge to do the one thing we were knowingly meant to do – and that’s reproduce.

Our genetic code is complex, but the urge for sex will surpass social standards, legal standards, and moral standards that also keep the genetic code intact. That is why this drive is so primally strong and so zombie-esque in need. As a species we feed on sex like vampires to blood.  But of course – nothing new here – we are not even the most sexually active species on the planet.

There is a point to all this – the preservation of life is sacred to us all that exist through it. But specifically the preservation of your particular species, even more specifically – your personal genetic code. From this simple purpose you came to know to love, for nothing melts our hearts more than a love for a child. And I’ll admit – that sounds really sappy – but it’s just a simple fact that shouldn’t be overlooked.

A single life is so complex and beautiful. The creation of a child should never be diminished in its importance as it might as well be a miracle for every time it occurred. The conception of a new life is practically magical in the rapid assembly of itself. For generations which I cannot even fathom this has occurred and this is something profound to say about both life and humanity.

The Problem

With all that being said above, we do have a problem. I just wanted to make it perfectly clear that I think human life is a beautiful, sacred thing that has signficant importance to all our lives. The problem lies directly on the graph to the right. Now, I know you all see what I’m talking about and you want to skip right to the end where you see the giant leap. But let’s take this graph step by step. First let’s recognize that 2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago not very much changed in the human population growth. How do we know this? Because more people would’ve meant more bones and bodies found in the ground – but we stayed a relatively low-key species for about 2.5 million years.

Then something happened about 10,000 years ago to change this very sustainable way of living. What was it? What took the population control away from Fate’s hands and into our own? What was our key to control over our own population levels? The answer happens to be something pretty boring sounding considering its power – the agricultural revolution. It’s hard to express my emotional attachment to this time period in human history. To me the agricultural revolution is more than just simply learning how to farm and store food, it was the first breath of civilization. This is important to me because civilization is the one thing we are completely surrounded by with virtually no questioning or truly understanding it. And it was simply the result of deciding to stop running around everywhere and make use of what was directly around us.

And a human living in a world of tribal sustenance, hunting and gathering, incessantly setting up camp and taking it down, almost completely exposed to unfavorable weather, and sometimes not knowing if they’ll have a next meal or have a day to rest I can only applaud their sheer brilliance of fortifying a single spot and attempt to master some of nature to work for us for a change – instead of the other way around. And because of this we prospered, and our genetic code was ecstatic pumping our brains with endorphins as our species finally could put their efforts in to other things rather than simply surviving – one of those other things quite obviously being sex. Yet other things were medical advances which helped people live better and longer lives, and still yet other things were to make life more convenient so as to decrease the risk of something going wrong. And through this we prospered even more, having more free time, and being productive in our own definition of the word with that free time.

Continuing on the graph our species goes through the many periods on which historians use to define eras – we float by the New Stone Age, in which some of the earliest civilizations on the planet began to flourish, in modern day Egypt, Iraq, India, and China. The Iron Age gave rise to the world’s most prominent civilizations to date, mighty empires rising and spreading across the planet only to crumble and fall again, sometimes centuries later. Additionally the Iron Age gave rise to our modern day commonly accepted religions, hardly a blip on the radar of humanity, life, the planet, and the Universe.  For now we’ll skip over the Middle Ages and move right to the Modern Age. Wow. How did the population get so high so quickly? Things hardly changed in millions of years and in the course of a few hundred years it skyrockets.

This is known as an exponential curve. The exponential function is an interesting concept best summed up by this quote right here:

The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponentional function.

Albert A. Bartlett, Physicist

And even though humanity has done a great job of demonstrating exponential growth with our populations and subsequently demand for resources, we as a race, rarely take it in to serious consideration. So what is this exponential function? What does it mean? And really the best source of explanation of that comes from the same man who gave the quote above. He has about an 80 minute video on Youtube aptly labeled The Most Important Video You’ll Ever See. If you truly want to feel the gravity of a blindsiding slap of what we as a species are doing to ourselves and the planet with very simple math, you should watch that video. Additionally if you want to understand why John McCain should not support drilling as much as he does – this isn’t political – it’s math – solid fact.But here is how Albert A. Bartlett brilliantly describes exponential growth (with my clever illustration to go with it).

He tells you to imagine a bottle with a bacteria in it that splits every minute, so that after an hours time the bottle will be full.

See the bacteria? He’s in there. The number along side the bottle? Bartlett decides this is the time in which we’ll put the bacteria in the bottle to watch it reproduce.

And there it is! The miracle of life! Where there was once bacteria there now is two. Now, at 11:02 both bacteria are going to split, so again there will be twice as many bacteria.

And there they are! All 4! Now, again, they double. And Again. And Again.

I like how they are stacking themselves up. It reminds me of a flea circus or something. But Bartlett asks this question: Using this method, at what time would the bottle be half full? My initial answer was probably similar to yours if you never thought about this before ” I dunno.” But the question is a trick because it was answered by the problem itself. If it doubles every minute, and after an hour it is full, it must be that at 11:59 the bottle was half full, as such:

Not as cozy and cute as the first 5 minutes. And in a single minutes time, we recieve this:

Even when you are expecting it, it is still slightly shocking, I must admit. For the simple reason that every single minute PRIOR to 11:59 you would’ve never guessed such a substantial growth rate. There is an old riddle whose origin and type of grain changes, but the story follows the same line. You start by putting one piece of grain on the first square, two on the second, and so on – before you reach halfway (or so) you’ve already used up all of the world’s known resources of grain. This is exponential growth – it sneaks up on you even when you know it’s coming. The next question Dr. Bartlett asks is If you were an average bacterium in the bottle, at which point would you realize you were running out of space?  I have taken the liberty to graph the bacteria experiment aforementioned above. Along the bottom is time and along the Y-Axis is the percentage of the bottle that is full (I have no idea how to tell Excel to stop at 100):

That is a fair question. Becuase certainly we can discount almost the entire history of the bacteria existence up until about 11:50. Bacteria at 11:50 have lived the whole history of their entire world, all 50 minutes of it, with a number that virtually amounts to 0. By 11:55 the bacteria are only taking up 3% of the entire bottle. 5 minutes until 12 – and the bottle is 3% full. What bacteria is going to naturally think that in 5 minutes the entire bottle is going to be full? Especially when the last 55 minutes have hardly incurred any growth at all?!

The beautiful thing about a man like Dr. Bartlett is that he thinks ahead. He allows the ability for him to be wrong by large proportions and still make his point. He first off allows the bacteria to “recognize” their danger when they are 25% full – or 2 minutes to 12, which is very generous as the average bacteria would say “There is still 75% of the bottle left to go.” So the bacteria recognize that they are running out of space at 2 minutes to 12 and they send out search parties across the world and they find 3 new bottles! Problem solved, right? Well, this leads to Dr. Bartlett’s 3rd question: How long can the growth continue as a result of the discovery of three new bottles; this quadrupling of the proven resource? Well by 12:00, the first bottle is full, by 12:01 2 bottles would be full, and by 12:02 all 4 bottles would be full, what does this mean?

It means that in this Bacteria-world, even though it took 59 minutes to fill only half of the first bottle (or 98% of the time), it would take only 3 minutes to fill 4 bottles (or 0.05% of the time). Now before I lose you, let me explain how this relates to people: This is why it’s bad to continue on the path of the exponential consumption of oil. Even if we found 3 times the total known amount of oil – we would still use it all up in minutely small amount of time.

You see – that chart I showed you with the rate of growth of the bacteria – it looks familiar. It looks like I’ve seen it somewhere before, where could it have been?! Oh wait, I remember! It reminds me a hell of a lot like the people graph I originally showed near the top of this entry – let’s take a look at what I mean:

So what does this mean? Simply – it means we are the bacteria in the bottle. Instead of bacteria in the bottle, it is humans on the planet. Just as the bacteria cannot survive outside of a bottle, we humans cannot survive outside of our planet. 12:00 is a metaphor – one that is almost cliched – it is a metaphor for our doom. And what time is it now for us? At the very earliest it is 11:59. And the problem for us, unlike the bacteria, is we cannot go exploring out in space and drag 3 other similarly identical planets back near us so we can populate them. We only have 1 bottle – 1 planet – that will sustain life as we know it – diverse and abundant. But every day the seconds tick by to our 12:00, human’s 12:00, in which maximum capacity has been reached and the only way for the population to go is down.

What Does The Population Going Down Really Mean?

Let me tell you what I’m not saying – I’m not saying every square inch of this Earth is going to be crushed with people – that is silly. But at some point this idea of “growth” that civilized culture so unwaveringly supports will not happen anymore. Why am I so certain? One neat thing to do is to take a look at this site that really puts you in perspective with the rest of humanity. Population: One shows what it would be like if each person on the Earth were a single pixel, with you being the first. If you did not click on that link, I encourage you to do it now. Each pixel you see there is a mouth to feed and a butt that poops. Each pixel you see there is someone who needs shelter, and potable water. Each pixel you see there is someone who needs resources to create what they desire, and each pixel you see there creates waste. Many of those pixels contribute to creating waste that does not turn in to something useful again for a long time – leaving less useful natural resources for the pixels to come… and they’re coming. Each of those pixels was once a precious indispensable human fetus.  The pixels are getting larger at an exponential rate – every day. If you would like to see it in real time (as well as many other jaw-dropping statistics) I suggest the World Clock. No matter how hard you try, you can never feel the full impact of what the World Clock is counting – it’s literally impossible as it silently calculates its statistics – yet it’s happening. Right now. Right. now.

At about 2 minutes to 12, or in 1798, a man by the name of Thomas Malthus was our bacteria that recognized the problem early on, when the world was still only 25% “full.” While he did not send tug-boat space ships to each corner of the galaxy to find us 3 new planets, he did prophesize that eventually food production would not be able to increase at the same rate as population. This has been known as the Malthusian dilemma. While some have ignorantly attempted to ignore the exponential function the Malthusian Dilemma is still a very valid and encroaching fear. A quote from Thomas Malthus:

The Power of population is so superior to the power of the Earth to produce substinence for man that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race

Premature death visiting the human race. That is probably the most eloquent way to put it – however in reality that means the creation of humanity’s worst nightmares. And yet we play blind and ignorant to this fact because it is taking on the responsibility of curbing the population of our entire species, which individually we all feel too small to do. And this is so counter-intuitive in thought as everything that we consider good, from medicine to peace all facilitate population growth. But the fact remains – our species will reach a point that if we don’t curb our growth, nature will. How?

Well one way is to look back up at my initial chart of the human race over the last 2.5 million years. There is something noteworthy that I breezed over initially. Between 1000 AD and 2025 AD the chart makes note of the only dip in our population – the black death. For any who choose to minimize the severe impact of disease on humanity, I encourage to click that link, and recognize the apocolyptic scenario we would be facing. In the span of about 6 years, 6 measley years, about half of the population of Europe was wiped out – so much that it even impacted the entire global population of humans (hence the dip on the chart). Today disease is even easier to spread with the simplicity of transportation. A disease that lay dormant for 24 hours, yet strikes like the black plague, could decimate our entire species in roughly the same timespan, if not smaller, than the black death.

And if the disease doesn’t get us and we continue to ignore our population growth – something else will. As we continue to team the planet, wars will be fought more frequently due to the dwindling amount of energy or fresh water sources, there is sufficient evidence to link the current Iraq War with the demand for the untapped oil resources that lay beneath the country. What other energy wars may occur in the future? And of course there is Malthus’ ever-famous famine that will occur if all else fails to diminish our population. There is only so much arable land on the planet and every year we lose more of it to the already voracious need for food in some places around the globe.

But let’s take a closer look at food. As it was the agricultural revolution that had sparked this population dominoes. A man named David Pimentel is quoted in this (boring, yet still relatively) informative slide show :

The populations of all organisms increase to the limit of their food resources

Let’s see. Are we an organism? Check. Well, that was easy, we’ve met all the criteria needed to increase to the limit of our food resource. Ever since we’ve been able to store food, we’ve been subconsciously increasing our population to meet the amount of food available. David Pimentel claims it in his study Human Population Numbers as a Function of Food Supply. All too often we hear people cry out that in many places in the world people are starving and that we need to be able to make more food for them. WorldHunger.org refutes this by saying:

The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day (FAO 2002, p.9).  The principal problem is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.

Notice how they openly admit that we are currently producing more food than we ever have before, despite the 70% increase in population (in only 30 years). To make this point clearer, I am going to cite a portion from one of the most inspiring authors I’ve ever read, Daniel Quinn, in his book The Story of B (p. 261 – 262):

Imagine if you will a cage with movable sides, so that it can be enlarged to any desired size. We begin by putting 10 healthy mice of both sexes into the cage, along with plenty of food and water. In just a few days there will of course be 20 mice, and we accordingly increase the amount of food we’re putting in the cage. In a few weeks, as we steadily increase the amount of available food, there will be 40, then 50, then 60, and so on, until one day there is 100. And let’s say that we’ve decided to stop the growth of the colony at 100. I’m sure you realize that we don’t need to pass out little condoms or birth-control pills to achieve this effect. All we have to do is stop increasing the amount of food that goes into the cage. Every day we put in an amount that we know is sufficient to sustain 100 mice — and no more. This is the part that many find hard to believe, but, trust me, it’s the truth: The growth of the community stops dead. Not overnight, of course, but in very short order. Putting in an amount of food sufficient for 100 mice, we will find — every single time — that the population of the cage soon stabilizes at 100. Of course I don’t mean 100 precisely. It will fluctuate between 90 and 110 but never go much beyond those limits. On the average, day after day, year after year, decade after decade, the population inside the cage will be 100.

Now if we should decide to have a population of 200 mice instead of 100, we won’t have to add aphrodisiacs to their diets or play erotic mouse movies for them. We’ll just have to increase the amount of food we put in the cage. If we put in enough food for 200, we’ll soon have 200. If we put in enough for 300, we’ll soon have 300. If we put in enough food for 400, we’ll soon have 400. If we put in enough for 500, we’ll soon have 500. This isn’t a guess, my friends. This isn’t a conjecture. This is a certainty.

So that’s it. We have to come up with a global limit to food supply for the entire human race. With that food supply limit we may not all die of a terrible bubonic plague or a massive nuclear winter, but instead we would taper the population off and, down the road, attempt to decrease it.

It is at this moment in time that I would like to invoke my initial statements of this entry. I’m not supporting this decision because I’m cruel or think humans, especially starving babies, aren’t special and don’t deserve to be fed. I am only supporting this decision because to me, it seems like the least cruel outcome. But let’s face facts here: It’s 11:59 and Thomas Malthus did not send space ships out 1 minute ago to save us with 3 times our current resources. We are on the brink of population collapse, and assuredly extreme disorder – in a world that we have proudly polluted for centuries, especially within the last 10 – 15 decades.

I would also like to add this as well: Don’t have children. If you’re reading this, whatever your age, don’t have children. And if you already have had some children – don’t have anymore. I only beg this of you because I know most will not listen, and they have every right. I would never believe that the government, or any group, should have the right to punish you for baring children. To me that seems as cold as you can come – I cannot support population control with prison and babies thrown out to sea. But please take an active part in our 11:59 attempt at stabilizing and decreasing the population. Dr. Barlett used many amazing quotes with his presentation, this being one of them, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr:

Unlike the plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases (which) we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient knowledge of the solution, but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and the education of the billions who are its victims.

Food production control and your own personal choice to not have children are not the only two things there are either. Let me make it a point that I’m a teacher of some of the most unloved children in New York State, and yet I still acquire many positive relationships with them. I try hard to make a personal connection and influence on all of my students who look even remotely accepting of any positive and progressive influence. Yet, as much as I love children of all ages, I will never have any of my own. Does this make me sad? Not really, I never let it enter my head as a true option because by the time I was adult-enough to understand the population situation, I had decided that it would be nothing less than selfish for me to be the one to create a child.

With saying that I am about to say some politically controversial things, but I believe given our circumstances, these should be nothing but common sense. First is sex education should be comprehensive and international regardless of religious beliefs due to our 11:59 situation. Within the sex education program abstinence should be promoted, if for no other reason than to stop the spread of disease. Additionally condoms and birth control should be completely free for anybody who wishes to use them – please take full advantage. So Catholics – this means you – as precious as life is, it’s okay that not every load blown is for the sole purpose of impregnation. Our sexual drive is too strong for that at this dire hour.

My other controversial belief is that abortions should be legal without thought of debate. Now I’m not talking about weird-ass late term abortions where a woman decides to kill a fully developed fetus on none-other than a whim (which my parents seem to think are the only kind of abortions going on). I believe early abortions for accidental pregnancies should be legal, not because I don’t think that child isn’t special, but because we really have too much on our plate right now to say, on principle, that a woman MUST bare her child if she becomes impregnated, regardless of rape-cases or accidental preganancies. A late-term abortion should only be allowed if the mother is endangered or a similarly good reason. I’m not promoting a murder-of-fetuses-for-fun-day or anything like that, but the fact that an individual should have the right to choose whether or not she wants to bare the life that is within her should be a non-issue. If it isn’t your body, it isn’t your choice in the matter, please if you are really intent on saving lives, focus on one of the many that are in need of you that currently reside on the planet and not in a womb. That is a serious request.

I would like to complete this entry with another quote used by Dr. Bartlett on his video that I implore you to watch. Also, feel free to comment on this entry below, I’m always happy to hear intelligent and thought-provoking responses. This is a quote from Asimov:

In the same way, democracy cannot survive overpopulation.

Human dignity cannot survive overpopulation.

Convenience and decency cannot survive overpopulation

As you put more and more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears. It doesn’t matter if someone dies, the more people there are, the less one individual matters.

Water

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

You should read this entry if water is in anyway important to you. So you should probably move along if you are a rock or a star or the vacuum of space. But as for the rest of you perhaps you can take a moment and really appreciate the chemical compound that sustains all life on this planet. You know good old water – the stuff that makes up 60% – 80% of your body, the stuff that makes up 71% of the Earth’s surface, the stuff that make up the clouds, the stuff that covers our polar regions, the stuff that makes up any river, stream, lake, or ocean you’ve ever see. It’s on the grass in the morning and it pours at us from the sky, it’s the stuff that’s in your swimming pool or it’s the stuff that runs out of your sink, and even the stuff that carries your waste (the giant turd you just dropped) to some distant forgotteness. Water, indeed, deserves at least a little bit of your time – regardless of how busy you are.

You already make time for it daily. Everybody loves a delicious drink, and at the base of every drink is good, delicious, pure, unadulterated water. In fact it has become so integrated into our lives I am here to make the case that we not only stopped appreciating it, but if we don’t recognize the true, vast, and utter importance of water that we will no longer have it to appreciate in most places.

It sounds like a bold claim, but I’m certain everybody has heard in the news somewhere that in the near future, while most on this planet are still alive, that billions will be without clean potable water. It’s one of those stories you see on CNN at an airport after a long unsuccessful business trip, concerned about the mortgage, and suspecting your children are falling into the hands of an unfavorable crowd. You look up from your uncomfortable plastic seat at the droning talking head telling you that the UN suspects that 2/3 of the global population will be in water-stressed regions and you really let it sink to your gut for a second. You know what I mean – that gut feeling that says “What are we doing?! The world is undeniably doomed.” But of course the ever-familiar narcissistic vanity so typical of Americans returns and you are once again lost in your own troubles. But how often do you think, do you worry, that you might not beat the odds? How often do you let it cross your mind that in 2025 or 2030 that YOU might be living in that water-stressed region? And you thought you had problems now…

This is a good moment to take a break from the disconcerting news above and do a 1st grade lesson – maybe 2nd. We are going to determine the difference between a need and a want. I made “need” red because without a need we are going to have to stop – living. I made “want” green because wants are always something we want to go after. For example, if you need to take that dump I was talking about earlier, that just simply must occur, it’s not usually something you’re craving to do – it’s business – it’s life business. If you don’t poop your body will sooner, more likely than later, stop living. If you want something, for example the man at the airport wanted to pay his mortgage, there is no danger of him losing his life. While he may be homeless, certainly he can find shelter, albeit not nearly as luxurious as a house.

Of course losing a house is no small deal. Certainly that is a very strong want. In fact it’s so strong that man might do anything to keep that want. Some people have pushed as far as murder or genocide to achieve their wants. And therein lies the water problem – people putting wants in front of needs. Imagine replacing all of the red bulbs (or LEDs or whatever) at stoplights with green ones.  The problem of putting green lights where the red lights should be is that we are under the impression that it is indeed okay to proceed when it is not okay to do so – when in fact your life will most likely be in danger.And that is exactly what replacing needs with your wants does.

This is the argument that could be made in the case of water. Water happens to be one of those very few things that have been placed on our needs list (I stopped using color because I figure you get the picture now). Yet we live in a very materialized want-based society, and surprisingly it is the driving force in the world today. Americans especially (but many other nations as wells) are notorious for creating things – not because they’re needed – but simply because they’re wanted – they’re desired. Yet this is not a problem that has started with America – it is as old as pollution.

A great example of this is that we can assume there is a beautiful, clean, bountiful, flowing river and there are two properties along the river 10 miles apart. We’ll pretend those properties are virtually identical and cost the same if you were interested in buying it. Both properties are completely self sufficient. There is no need for a dependency on others for water – such as the water company – to get your water for you because clean water is freely accessible on the river. However, due to the high demand for complex chemical products the property upstream was purchased so a factory had a place to dump its waste. A chemical factory dumping waste into the river completely depreciates all properties downstream, including the one 10 miles away. They are now unable to be independent for water, and because it is a need, they must turn toward another system to obtain it.

There was never and still isn’t a value put on the depreciation of our natural resources – specifically the ones we need. The voracious illegal logging across the planet, the dumping of chemicals and waste into our water and air that we breathe are all these things we allow to happen, free of charge. Please don’t confuse what I’m saying with things that can be replenished or renewed – things that humans do that are sustainable, or largely sustainable, are things I’m okay with. I’m okay with tree farms made specifically for logging that do not contribute to desertification. I’m not really okay with losing a forest that will never return to the Earth until humans are dead and their unquenchable desire for materials lost back to nature.

Slowly across the world pollution is taking a stronger and stronger grip. Certainly there have been gains – for example, in America air pollution has consistently decreased throughout the last few decades. But there are two problems with evidence like this. The first is that it would make sense for the increase of air quality for America with the decrease in industrial production due to outsourcing since the ’70s. But since the ’70s China’s coal use has doubled from just over 600 million metric tons to more than 1.2 billion metric tons. My reason for making this point is to prove that this is a global problem that connects and affects us all, and it is only getting worse. The second problem with the good-news evidence is that air pollution is not the only way to pollute. I’ve written previous entries on the pollution of plastic to the decimation of entire regions.

And again all of this pollution occurs because of “wants” in the most stripped definition of the word. They are wants, perhaps, with very good reasons behind them – perhaps it is even an idea used to save lives, but it comes at the cost of poisoning our natural right – water. For example, in the same book that dished out the facts on China’s coal consumption had this to say:

Indeed, China’s use of chemical fertilizers has more than quadrupled during the reform period, from 8,840,000 tons in 1978 to 42,538,000 tons in 2001. According to the World Bank, the poor quality of fertilizers and their inefficient application is contributing to significant nutrient runoff, which in turn is contributing to eutrophication in many of China’s most important lakes, in which the growth of dense algaie depletes the shallow water of oxygen.

This is just one example of how water gets polluted across the globe – including in America. China’s poor environmental practices are not the exception – but the rule. And they are being rewarded with a booming economy manufacturing materials for the West. They can circumvent the rules we, the West, put in place to have a clean and sustainable future thereby receiving the illusion of having the best of both worlds. But in reality America is still a high polluter due to our high desire for materials.

And this is the bombshell – this is the whole point: When we lose our free and natural sources for clean potable water, where do we turn? In the past for humans water was owned by Gaia, Mother Earth, God, Allah, Yahweh – in other words – somebody we don’t have to pay. But now we have a planet full of consistently filthier and filthier water and someone needs to clean that water (a process that was not needed nearly as strongly in the past) and, let’s bring the argument full through here, doesn’t that person who takes the time, energy, and money to clean that water deserve to be compensated?

Traditionally water has been a public domain. Perhaps you pay to get water pumped to your home but certainly you are not paying for the product being produced – it’s just water – it’s owned by no one. But now water is slowly becoming a product. More and more work is involved in getting water. Partially due to the pollution and partially due to the exponential growth rate in humans. Already the American midwest is experiencing water stress. So who is going to solve such big problems for us? In the West there is a major movement to privatize water. What this means in the most simplest of terms is that somebody will own the water – somebody we do have to pay. Not Gaia anymore. Can you imagine one of your needs to be owned by another human or group of humans? Imagine if they owned your right to poop, and you never had enough money to pay them, what is the ultimate result?

Fucking scary. That’s my answer to that question. When you privatize a need only bad things can happen. But don’t just take my word for it – Take it from the makers of an amazing book called Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water. This book came out in addition to the movie Thirst. The authors do a much better job at explaining the different arguments for and against Private and Public water than I ever could:

One is concerned with practical issues of efficiency and economics, and the other is about principle. In the first case, both advocates and opponents of privatization point to successes and failures that allegedly prove their case. The debate over principle is more fundamental and involves questions of ethics and moral values.

I consider that a fair and powerful statement. When something becomes privatized the conversation MUST revolve around efficiency and economics  while a public conversation has the ability to discuss the moral value of such efficiency or economics. It brings in to question the very foundation of what the terms public and private actually mean. If we privatize water, what IS public? On the topic of water should we REALLY just limit ourselves to narrowly defining it in terms of efficiency and economics? And whats to stop them from withholding water so long as they have military might behind them? Why not just let the rich and powerful drink and live easy letting others to fend for themselves and find their “own” water source to “purchase”? The authors continue:

The practical debate over who can provide water better focuses on the issues of transparency, efficiency, rates, and sustainability. In public systems, major decisions must go through a deliberative process that not only is conducted in public but also involves the public. Such transparency gives citizens’ groups and individuals access to the information they need to understand the workings of their utility and to follow the money. The same cannot be said for private water companies. Yes, wholly-owned water systems are regulated by state public utilities commissions and public-private partnerships are overseen by city councils, but getting information out of a giant corporation – even information required by contract – is often a difficult and contested process. In addition, it is nearly impossible to audit money flows between a local subsidiary and its parent multinational based abroad…. In 2006, two top managers at a Suez/United Water plant in New Jersey were indicted for covering up high radium levels in the drinking water. Prolonged exposure to radium is linked to to cancer, and communities served by the plant had a history of unusually high rates of childhood cancers.

And they continue on for no short length of time explaining all the risks that come with giving up our freedom to water. Now if you’ve read my entries before, you know I am an avid believer in gathering any information on the people behind an opinion to see if there are any tell-tale signs of corruption or greed. In the case of both plastic and biotechnology I found backers with ambiguous relationships in the government that would give them more profit and power to themselves and their relationships if their beliefs were followed. When I look up Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, the authors of this book, the only paper trail they have leads them back to PBS. PBS has proved through decades of nonpartisan work to have thoughtful and fair programs – providing as impartial a view as possible. If people kept water public Snitow and Kaufman would not profit – this is an excellent sign – this means while they promote the idea and profit off of promoting that idea, they do not profit off of people following the idea. This is rare to see in backers of privatization – they not only attempt to profit off of promoting the idea, they tend to profit off of people following the idea. For example:

Private Water Corporations

RWE/Thames – An energy behemoth German corporation known as RWE (because who wants to spell out the entire name? not me.) is the first example Snitow and Kaufman point out for why privatization is a bad idea. In the beginning of the 21st century RWE was hungrily devouring companies to put underneath its belt. One such company was known as Thames, which was the water company that supplied England with its water. In a report written by Public Citizen they found RWE/Thames had been England and Wales worst polluter for three years running.

This was of little matter to RWE who had reached number 78 on the Global Fortune 500 list raking in the largest profit of any water company in the entire world just barely beating the French water giants Suez (who was number 79) and Veolia (Page 1). A hop over the pond and RWE/Thames were ready to do business with America’s largest private water company – American Water Works – with 16 million customers in 29 states and 3 Canadian Provinces. Yes, this is the very same company with a terrible pollution record. In about 10 years time RWE had racked up $27 billion in debt and 2002 alone stocks dropped 40% (Page 2).

The implications of depending on a profit-driven entity that can not or does not make the expected profit are always negative. If a corporation does extremely well, such as Exxon-Mobil’s $40 billion profit, the savings do not get passed on to the consumer, as we well know. However, if a corporation does extremely poorly and we are dependent on it, such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, it is up to the public to bail them out at the expense of those who act responsibly.

Due to RWE not acting responsibly they had to resort to some dirty tactics for profit. Two-term mayor, Gary Podesto, of Stockton, California was happy to oblige by blocking information to the public on the privatization of their water system. Snitow and Kaufman paint Podesto as a man who had every intention of allowing RWE/Thames to take over their water system with minimal to no public decision on the topic. They accuse Podesto of not releasing details and refusing a public input on the matter. When public water supporters wanted to bring RWE/Thames in front of a referendum RWE/Thames and OMI (the American company they were working with) contributed $60,000 to the antireferendum campaign, which Podesto backed. Considering those who supported the referendum were a local grassroats group the decision seemed to have a heavy bias. I think it’s important to remember that this is about drinking water and sanitation which are needs. Should we allow the market to lay such a heavy bias on something that is so crucial to our existence?

Gary Podesto and RWE/Thames seemed to have no problem with it as “RWE/Thames took out full-page newspaper ads. Leaflets and mailers went out to homes across the city, and Podesto recorded automatic phone messages, warning voters against the ‘misinformation and sometimes downright lies’ being spread by the Coalition supporters [for public water]“(p. 40 of Snitow and Kaufman’s book). It is clear that RWE/Thames and Podesto were not interested in facts so much as winning, and winning is what they got.  Snitow and Kaufman discuss the results explaining that while Podesto claimed only a 7% rate increase during the 20 year contract there was already an increase of 8.5% after only the first 3 years. “In addition, leakage doubled, maintenance backlogs skyrocketed, and staff turnover was constant, even on the management level, where there were two general managers and four operations managers in the first two years” (p. 46). And even in addition to that Snitow and Kaufman explain they cut odor-control chemicals to save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, pumped chlorine into a waterway killing fish and getting the city fined $125,000, and spilled 8 million gallons of sewage into a river contaminating a swimming area.

So why was Gary Podesto so willing to blindly back such a bloated and pollution-prone corporation based a half a world away? He needed the money freed up to build a minor-league ballpark which was riddled with ineptitude. A report by a former city finance commissioner found the “city had inappropriately drained $36 million from water and sewer accounts to pay for the ballpark” (p. 46). Ultimately it was found that Stockton illegally implemented OMI and RWE/Thames as the water authority and returned it to municipal control. In other words the way a private company operated exclusively with a public official, in this case Gary Podesto, shows that water can be wasted and contaminated when driven by profit. The local interests of Stockton, California were moot to a desperate corporate giant desperate for profit. As for Gary Podesto, does he regret his terrible mismanagement of the water authority and his precious ballpark? Despite the Stockton City Council being found guilty of financial mismanagement Gary Podesto still backs them in hopes to regain political favor. Luckily as of 2006 he seems largely forgotten.

Also after buying American Water Works RWE/Thames continued to work deceptively. They’ve increased rates to over 100% in another California town of Felton, they manipulated neighboring district rate figures to attempt to trick the residents, they planted “community operatives” to “conduct reconnaissance,” in other words supplanting citizens who seemed impartial but were staking out the situation for the company. They used a public relations group known as the Moriah Group based in Tennessee to coerce citizens without the need of impartiality. In fact a grassroots website that quickly popped up supporting the privatization of water turned out to be done by a designer who also created the Moriah Group website… in Tenessee. It’s once again clear that winning overtook any informed decision on such a matter. They even went as far as to attempt to rewrite the state’s eminent-domain laws. All of this can be found in the 3rd Chapter of Thirst.

Suez – When Atlanta, Georgia’s public water and sewage system were too old and needed a major financial investment one would suspect the mayor of the city, Bill Campbell, to be concerned. However Mayor Campbell was happy to privatize the system selling it to Suez, a French company and United Water out of New Jersey at the curiously low price of $21.4 million a year over 20 years. Shortly after the sale is about the point where the Mystery Machine starts driving through Atlanta and the van breaks down. Because it was shortly after the sale to Suez and United Water that strange things started to occur. Only this wasn’t a scary ghost doing the strange things – it was Suez and Mayor Campbell.

Suez has a history of corruption. In exchange for privatizing the city of Grenoble the mayor accepted $3 million in bribes and was sentenced to four years in prison. Originally it was thought to be just a local bribe between local Suez officials and the mayor, but the CEO who finalized the deal was also a close adviser to Jacques Chirac, mayor of Paris, future President of France. However, it was only the mayor that was imprisoned.

So it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that Suez was already a partial owner of New Jersey based United Water and within a year was the 100% owner. Now the joint-work supposed to be between the two companies in Atlanta was now just Suez and again the desire for profit cut quality immensely. Service wait-time increased across the board and maintence workers cut staff from 479 to about 300 (p. 76 in Thirst). Advisories to boil water and water shortages increased and the quality of the water such as clarity and purity were lower.

How did Suez respond to their poor performance?

United Water subsidiary quickly began playing politics. It donated $10,900 to Ralph Campbell, Mayor Campbell’s brother, who was running for state auditor in North Carolina, a state in which United Water has no operations. The company also made contributions to Campbell’s campaign organization, even though Campbell – now in his second term – could not run for reelection and wasn’t a candidate for any other office. Although these contributions were not illegal, they reeked of impropriety and financial payoffs.

Meanwhile, United Water had a series of explanations for the growing cacophony of consumer complaints. Amazingly, the company said that it didn’t know about existing conditions when it signed the contract. (p. 78).

Additionally Mayor Campbell got an all-expense-paid trip for himself and a female companion in 1999 to visit the Suez corporate headquarters for 2 1/2 hours. However, all 5 days were paid for racking up a total cost of $12,900.  In fact Campbell ended up being “indicted on 7 counts of racketeering, tax violations, and taking corrupt payments from various developers, political supporters, and contractors” (p. 83). When all was said and done Mayor Campbell was sentenced to 30 months in prison. As for Suez the new mayor was in shock at how poorly the system was run and was able to void the contract due to the terrible performance via an audit.

The audit also confirmed that United Water had not come close to delivering the $20 million in annual savings (a reduction from the $30 million tossed out by Mayor Campbell at various times). The amount saved was closer to $10 million a year, and no one thought those savings made up for the incompentent water service.

Corruption happens. I understand. But corruption occurs much easier when a lot of money is moved around behind closed doors instead of transparently in the open with public collusion. Water, being a need, must be as transparent as possible – just as it was when it was cleaned by Mother Nature. There were no ulterior motives of profit – only bounty.

Nestle – Another side of the privatization of water is bottled water:

In 2005, Americans spent well over $10 billion on bottled water, and sales are skyrocketing. The Beverage Marketing Corporation reports that bottled-water sales are increasing nearly 10 percent a year, growth almost unheard of in the food and beverage sector…. (p. 143)

In addition, if we get used to paying gas prices for a bottle of water, we might also get used to the idea that private corporations should provide tap water as well – at prices that guarantee a hefty profit….

From California to Maine to Florida, local and state governments are giving bottlers tax breaks and incentives, in effect paying them to appropriate the natural springs and aquifers we own in common as a people, all in return for the promise of a small number of jobs. Other companies receive similar subsidies for filling their bottles with inexpensive municipal water, slightly filtered or straight from the tap.

Consumers of bottled water pay roughly one thousand, sometimes even ten thousand, times more water for bottled water than for tap water. And what do we get? Study after study has concluded that bottled water is neither cleaner nor greener than tap water. The Natural Resources Defense Council discovered that a surprising number of the bottled waters they tested contained contaminants, pesticide residues, and heavy metals. The results shocked most people, who had not realized that bottled water is less regulated than tap water. While the Environmental Protection Agency enforces strict standards on municipal tap water, the Food and Drug Administration oversees bottled water and is concerned more with the accuracy of the label than with contents of the bottle. Water bottled and sold inside a single state isn’t covered by federal regulations at all but by state regulations, which vary from strict to virtually nonexistent. (p. 144)

I don’t mean to seem like I’m quoting the whole book, but this information is important for us to know to make informed decisions. Aside from bottled water being lower quality than tap water it also contributes largely to plastic waste. Thirst goes on to say that 88% of the 40 million bottles drank a day do not get recycled.

Nestle, however, felt they could cope with that fact. Being the world’s largest food company and based in Switzerland they knew people were going to want a drink with that. So Nestle created a division called Perrier and bought Poland Springs, Calistoga, Zephyrhills, Arrowhead, Ozarka, Deer Park, and Ice Mountain. Another quote:

Nestle Waters sells seventy-two brands in 160 countries. By 2005, its U.S. subsidiary was exploiting 150 water sources to feed over twenty bottling plants. The company’s $3.1 billion in 2005 sales accounted for almost one third of the U.S. bottled water market (p. 148).

Another big corporation and another story of corporate corruption with our precious need – water. In Newport and New Haven Wisconsin, after receiving a sour welcome from the town, people from Perrier contacted local landowners who had spring water. They promised to give them a good price for them if they agreed to keep the talks secret from everybody they knew – including family.  Again, I understand business is business, but when it comes to a need such as our water supplies, this creepy backroom deal stuff is shameful. Nestle spends millions a year lobbying the government to continue to find sources for water.

Even though Nestle spent plenty of money on brochures 74% of New Haven and 81% of Newport wanted Perrier to leave with only a local official supporting them (which I’m sure he was not promised something by Perrier at all). Perrier would not leave the area claiming public support and 0 environmental impact without an environmental study and despite proof to the contrary with their test pump. After Perrier and local residents took it to court both sides had its victories and defeats. However, Perrier changed its name after the incident to Nestle Waters North America.

Additionally Nestle has been sniffing around the largest fresh water resource in the world – the Great Lakes, particularly Michigan:

They quickly discovered that a year earlier Nestle’s representatives met with the Republican governor, John Engler, and his staff won their support for an expansion of the company’s bottled-water business. “Support” doesn’t quite express the relationship however: Nestle had been offered almost $10 million in state and local tax abatements and other subsidies over ten years.

One of the governor’s senior aides apparently felt some pangs of guilt about the giveaway. In a “conscience-clearing” memo to his boss, the aide, Dennis Schornack, wrote, “Michigan won’t just be giving away the water; it will be paying a private and foreign-owned firm to take it away.” And in a later interview he went further: “The plentifulness and purity of the water that drew them [Nestle] to Michigan was going to draw them here anyway,” he said. “Tax abatements were unnecessary and unwise.” Schornack estimated Nestle could clear up to $1.8 million a day when the plant was up and running, a figure Nestle disupted (p. 172).

In both Wisconsin and Michigan Nestle was getting friendly with local leaders to circumvent public opinion. In a place called Sanctuary Springs Nestle received the right to lease the springs for pumping for 99 years. I mean let’s face it – politicians are known to take bribes – which, again, I know we cannot stop that completely. However, if all the dealings with water were done 100% transparently with public knowledge and interaction without multi-BILLION dollar corporations pushing legal boundaries as far as they go and sometimes breaking them then we might be able to come up with a clever, smart, sustainable, cost-effective system. Private corporations can sometimes pull that off, assuming the market and predictions go well, but they sometimes can not pull that off – for way many more reasons – being too bloated, internal greed, poor communication, bureaucratic hierarchies, poor profits 10,000 miles away, a lagging stock market… and my point is simply that we shouldn’t let the fate of our water supplies be determined in this fashion. It should seriously be illegal – owning water is sick, not smart. And the laws aren’t there yet – at least in Michigan. In 1998, when Ontario promised Asia 50 tankers of lake water a year there was an outrage and the company was forced to stop. Nestle claims that pumping for tiny bottles of water is not nearly going to have the same effect, but:

the original supertanker export proposal was to ship about 160 million gallons a year. That’s far less than the 240 million gallons a year Nestle could pump from that springs in Mecosta County alone, and the company was already developing new sources, including wells in the town of Evart, just fifty miles north of its Stanwood plant in Mecosta County (Michigan) (p. 186).

And oh yea, there’s this point too the book makes which is pretty important:

industry and industrial agriculture have been profligate in their use of water to produce food and other commodities. But Nestle isn’t making anything. It is merely exploiting a substance in the public domain, pasting on its brand name, shipping it out, and marking it up for sale by a factor of a hundred or more (p. 187).

And in court in November of 2003 a judge ruled against Nestle pumping in Mecosta County, Michigan and told them that they had 21 days to leave town by December 16, 2003. On December 15 “company lawyers reportedly held a private noontime meeting with top officials of Governor Granholm’s administration” (p. 191) who then supported the Nestle appeal and the pumping continued. I mean seriously – Nestle (and many other major corporations) are manipulating the system with an extremely disproportionate advantage leaving piles of money turds on the feet of anyone who can help them get what they want. “That’s just the market!” someone can ignorantly say, but this is water. W-A-T-E-R. We need it and exploiting it should not be the name of the game here – for Nestle and other private water companies, it is. But who would’ve thought that a major corporation would’ve ended up having secret meetings with public officials to get their way despite the lack of benefits to the local owners? Well after reading this entry you should’ve thought about it because Mayors and Governors seem to be the usurpers of democracy, local support, and humanity as a whole for being so lenient with such aggressive and manipulative corporate entitites. In 2006 at the 4th World Water Forum, which is dominated by private water companies, the authors of Thirst had this to say:

By the end of the conference, the Forum’s organizers, in an apparent fit of pique, blocked any reference in the final declaration to water as a human right because doing so would carry certain legal obligations and guarantees under international treaties. Instead, they substituted vague pabulum: water is “a guarantee of life for all of the world’s people (p. 207).

Now, water is a human right in my book. Just as if a government was withholding food from its citizens they would be denying their people of a basic human right, so would a private corporation holding water simply for a return profit. The wording they chose is so slippery it kind of makes me a little sick: water is a guarantee of life for all the world’s people. What that means, if you didn’t take time to break down the semantics, is that they are simply acknowledging the importance of water to people… but that people do not have a basic right to it. That is scary – that is Dr. Doom talk – we need to be smarter and pick up on these idiosyncrasies – otherwise the sentence might go as follows: “Water is a guarantee of life for all of the world’s people… which you will not be supplied with unless you pay us.” And in short that sentence is already implied, just not discussed, due to the whole “cruel” factor that might be played.

How Bad Can It Really Get

But seriously, how bad can it really get? Nestle has that cute chocolate rabbit – there is no way they’re going to be willing to deprive the world of the most efficient water conservation techniques and the cost of profit, is there? If only we can look into a world where privatized water industry got everything they wanted – maybe it’s just us who want transparency and lack of bribes that ARE really the source of trouble – if only there was a place where all water was privatized – what would that world be like?

Bechtel – Being the largest engineering company in the United States Bechtel was happy to lend a helping hand to Bolivia when the World Bank demanded that they privatize a city’s entire water system – including rainwater (yes RAINWATER). Cochabamba, the third largest city in Bolivia, began having to pay 1/4 of their income for water having to hold back on buying medicine, allowing their children to go to school, and having the elderly beg for money. Shortly thereafter riots began and the Bolivian government chose to back Bechtel – not its people. Of course many were injured and killed, including children. Eventually Cochabamba got their water back. So is this worth the right for someone to make a profit?

It reminds me of a quote I have from Catch-22 on my About Page where Milo Minderbinder is wondering how he can make a profit off of something nobody wants (for him it was Egyptian cotton, for us it’ll be water you must pay for), Yossarian says he should bribe the government into buying into it:

“Bribe it!” Milo was outraged and almost lost his balance and broke his neck again. “Shame on you!” he scolded severely, breathing virtuous fire down and upward into his rusty mustache through his billowing nostrils and prim lips. “Bribery is against the law, and you know it. But it’s not against the law to make a profit, is it? So it can’t be against the law for me to bribe someone in order to make a fair profit, can it? No, of course not!” He fell in to brooding again, with a meek, almost pitiable distress. “But how will I know who to bribe?”

“Oh don’t you worry about that,” Yossarian comforted him with a toneless snicker as the engines of the jeeps and ambulance fractured the drowsy silence and the vehicles in the rear began driving away backward. “You make the bribe big enough and they’ll find you. Just make sure you do everything right out in the open. Let everyone know exactly what you want and how much you’re willing to pay for it. The first time you act guilty or ashamed, you might get into trouble.”

And isn’t that the case? Wasn’t it the case with RWE/Thames, Suez, and Nestle? Bechtel even paid a record low for the water business of Cochabamba because the government was against the wall. When people rallied against the idea of paying for a human right the giant companies just dropped money in all the right places to attempt to keep it working for them. Some succeeded, others failed, but with water crises quickly coming up we know they will not stop and just like the hole in the dike, it will get bigger and more powerful to stop – the more we allow private companies to invade and control our natural resource made for all life – the more dependent we become on others, and not ourselves, and the less we take care of ourselves, the more infantile we deserve to be treated. And these companies are not the only players in the game – Pepsi and Coca-Cola are right behind Nestle selling their bottled water brands of Aquafina and Dasani respectively. Plastic is piling up and the cost of water in 16-ounce forms is costing us over 100% of what it’d cost from our usually cleaner tap-water supply.

Change your beliefs, abstain from buying bottled water (fill one up on your own), and keep your local water supply (wherever it may be) public and transparent. Of course, as usual, despite being a 6,000 word entry, I still am only touching the tip of the iceberg. For way more information on this topic I suggest the following. Comment please!

Scarcity is the soul of profit – if profit can be said to have a soulThirst (p. 3)

Biotechnology and Transgenics

I like this Frankenstein

I like this Frankenstein

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

“How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! – Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the as the dun-white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips… I had desired it with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart.

– Mary Shelley, Frankenstein.

It was the summer of 1816 when Mary Shelley first dreamt up this image. Her husband and she went to go visit their friend in Switzerland – Lord Byron. Due to the dreary weather they were confined to the indoors and shared ghost stories. For Mary’s entire life she was surrounded by some of the most famous writers in British literature – both her parents, her husband, and her friend Lord Byron all went down in British history. So, to no surprise, during this dreary summer the idea came up that everybody would create their own ghost story. Finally she dreamed the image quoted above, as she explains in the introduction of the third edition of Frankenstein:

I saw – with shut eyes but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.

For it was not a ghost story that really shook Mary to her bones. Mary was concerned about the concept of mankind playing God. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world. She was questioning the dark corridors that science could lead us down. The idea that some people would try and use science to do the work of nature, and in fact replace nature, was alive in Mary Shelley’s mind as she wrote the famous words of Frankenstein.

Of course in 1816 it was not biotechnology or transgenics Mary Shelley had in mind – but electricity. While many scientists worked diligently to help pave the way to the creation of all benefits electricity has given us, many scientists felt that within electricity the elixir to life was hidden. The possibilities were endless in many scientists mind – electricity could’ve been the key to bring back the dead. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein warns us about using crude knowledge of science to try and follow a pipe dream, such as Dr. Victor Frankenstein did. You see – in Frankenstein’s mind he was certain what he was building was going to be a beautiful, perfect creature, but as soon as he had succeeded in what he was pushing for so long he becomes aghast at what he had created and tried to run from his own creation, but what he created was irrevocable and ultimately the death of him.

In the book Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering on a Biotech Planet by Denise Caruso, I see a Mary Shelley of the 21st Century. The mysticism of electricity is long dead – Since Mary’s masterpiece physicists have found a way to link it magnetism and most other forces of the Universe, we have harnessed its power to energize virtually every household and machine product. It was done collaboratively for the public good and today we couldn’t function at the level of society we do without the gift of science and the lack of greed that consumed them. Sure – we could find a more efficient way to transport it among other things but civilization has democratically agreed electricity has been conquered and put to its most efficient use. But science is never out of new boundaries. Today it’s genetics and biotechnology. Denise Caruso assesses risk and she tries to make sure that others assess risk properly. Of course nobody will take eloquent, centuries-old, fiction as warnings anymore (though many would do us some good), so Denise Caruso writes a logical, referenced-reinforced, and deeply interesting book on how we should assess risk with technology we do not understand yet. And if you don’t have time to read the book, you should read this entry though it’s long, because it’s shorter than the book. I use both information provided by her and information I’ve found on my own as my references which are linked along the way (please click, lots of work involved)

So What Is Biotechnology and Transgenics?

Don’t feel dumb. That’s a fair question to ask – I know you’re not a scientist (most likely). Imagine you are about to have a child and it is born with a disease that will severely impact his life – now imagine that a doctor could use genetic engineering to remove that disease. Pretty cool, huh? The doctor would simply replace the “broken” gene with a healthy one and your child would have averted the disease. But let’s not stop there – Imagine if you could alter genes in delicious fruits and vegetables so that they could stay fresh 10 times longer to reduce the impact on the planet? I mean – we simply are treating the gene that makes that fruit or vegetable rot just like the gene that was going to cripple your child for life – we just need to put a gene that keeps freshness longer – what difference does it make what gene we change, so long as it benefits us? I mean don’t even stop there, let your imagination come off the reel here – what if we could infuse some common, mass produced food, like bread, with a bunch of essential nutrients and send it to poor countries to feed their teeming famished? And why deal with animals if we could just grow their body parts from DNA and only produce the profitable and delicious parts? And what if we could create species as we pleased with whatever clever DNA already exists from any species on the planet? We could have pigs that glow and fish that grow super fast and we could design our children to look exactly like we wanted, and if we want them to be athletic, they can be athletic, and if we want them beautiful, they can be beautiful – the sky is the limit!

Now take everything written above and stick it in your pipe because this is our current pipe dream. This is the early 21st century’s electricity.  Biotechnology and Transgenics have achieved most of those things above to some or partial success. If they have not achieved them they are promised to come in the future by those researching. But they are in their infancy and the corporations conducting research are fervent believers that biotechnology and transgenics are the answer to most, if not all, of our future problems. But when they finally achieve their idea of success with biotechnology – will they awake to a horror not unlike Frankenstein’s monster?

Anybody can dismiss that question as absurd. But I am a true believer that any unknown front in science should be objectively risk-assessed so we’re not blindsided with something we could have predicted – because the story of Frankenstein is a question: At what point does your dream become your nightmare? Where do we draw the line? How do we know? and who decides? On the fronts of biotechnology and transgenics these questions are falling to the wayside for the simple motivation of profit – which I will support with evidence further on.

Will Smith - you are so fucking tough.

Will Smith - you are so fucking tough.

So – again – what is transgenics? We know it has the capacity to be both our dream and our nightmare, but what is actually the process? Well here goes – I’m no geneticist, but it seems to be a relatively simple concept: I’ve read it likened to “cutting” the desired traits from gene A (let’s say a trait that make honey bees docile) and “pasting” the trait into the DNA code of gene B (let’s say the aggressive Africanized honey bee).  The result? Docile Africanized honeybees – or so we’d hope. As we know, things are not always as simple as they sound.

Let me try and magnify the risks as “cutting and pasting” makes it sound like a 2nd grader could do it. Instead of collecting body organs geneticists find the proper components to infect the desired trait into the plant or animal victim.

That’s right – infect. Because essentially that is what transgenics could be described as in one single word – infection. And that holds certain negative preconceptions – as it should – infection indicates a foreign body invading a natural environment with the intent to permanantly change that environment. To infect holds significant risk alone. When your body becomes infected with a disease, the disease is attempting to take over your body by force, your body is not okay with just naturally accepting it and your body wants to fight it off. In transgenics all of these things need to be overcome so the infection wins. Because the intent is to infect the body with something good as opposed to something bad.

If you’re a fan of zombie movies – I Am Legend provides an excellent example of this. If you listen to how the zombies came to be it was the result of something totally unexpected – a cure for AIDS. And in the movie the person who designed the “cure” explains a very similar process about infection. But ultimately there were no long-term studies done on this “cure” and the infection ended up becoming extremely aggressive as well as airborne infecting virtually everybody with extremely disastrous results. Another movie (and video game) Resident Evil creates a post-apocalyptic world via zombies that came about through a highly secure DNA testing facility having a disease released using the same processes described here.

While it is unlikely this infectious process will turn us all into zombies, it is likely that there could be unforeseen consequences to infecting living beings with “better” qualities. The main reason being that infectious items are aggressive and accomplish their needs through means of force, not through a working symbiotic relationship.

They\'re wearing biohazard suits because they\'re afraid of infection

Theyre wearing suits because theyre afraid of infection - Resident Evil

So how do they infect, for example, a crop of plants to become resistant to weed killer? Well they take a soy plant, for example, and now they have to find out a way to stop it from being harmed when it is sprayed with glyphosate (aka weed killer). So what is glyphosate resistent? Salmonella. However since we don’t want the gastroenteritis that comes with it, we just extract the good part, the part that happens to be resistent to weed killer.  And now, how do we get it into the soy plant? Now that we have the cargo we have to deliver the goods. So we take a little bit of E. Coli to use as the vessel to deliver and infect the soy plant on a DNA level. And, in addition Denise Caruso explains:

There are generally other bits of DNA included in transgenic cassettes that are designed to perform various other functions, like impelling the target protein to express in certain parts of the plant (or animal) and not in others. In Roundup Ready, this bit of genetic material comes from a petunia, for example. Until recently, virtually all commercial transgenic cassettes have also included a sequence of antibiotic resistant DNA from Streptococcus bacterium.

Can anyone not see Dr. Frankenstein’s parallel? We are taking the best parts of life, much like Dr. Frankenstein gave his monster the best parts of a human. But when they come together and work, what do they produce? Has mankind out-done nature or “God” as Mary Shelley put it? The roundup ready soy we just learned the basics of transgenics on is actually a product on the market now making a hefty load of cash. The EPA approves it. So can there be any serious risks or problems with this Frankenstein-like work? Have we put Mary Shelley’s classic work to shame? Have we proven stronger than the natural Universe itself?

I won’t make you wait for the answer – it’s simply No – we haven’t. And without proper oversight and insight from those leading the front of biotechnology the problems will continue and we will have a Frankenstein on our hands – and we will recoil in horror at what we had created. What problems, you ask? These problems:

Problems with Biotechnology and Transgenics

Instead of burgers it\'s lifetime enslavement - thats the only difference

Instead of burgers its eternal enslavement - same diff

Profit is the number one problem for biotechnology and transgenics. It skews reason, it disregards long-term testing, and it corrupts government. Okay, how do I prove these things? We can start with Monsanto which is literally the Hamburglar of the world. As Grimace, Ronald, and the chicken nuggets are looking the other way Hamburglar sneaks behind the counter and steals more hamburgers than he could even possibly eat. Only instead of the counter Monsanto sneaks behind the world, and instead of stealing more hamburgers than he can eat, Monsanto steals more money than it can use. Bold claim! But not without cause. Monsanto was the producer of Agent Orange – of Agent Fucking Orage – and they have the audacity to make their logo a fucking plant? I mean isn’t that seriously insane? Agent Orange killed everything it touched and mutated both animals and plants for generations to come – and yet we find Monsanto a member of a website called Bio.org with the theme “Science for Life.”

You would think that anyone with that theme would have at least this single pre-requisite: The creators of Agent Orange are not allowed to join strictly on principle but they made it in. Now we can all say “Hey, that was Vietnam, Monsanto has a totally different staff, they’ve turned over a new leaf, they’re an honest company now – they now are not motivated strictly by profit as they were back during Vietnam – at some point the company grew a conscience.” Then it would be hard to explain the phenomenon known as Monsanto Revolving Doors. Excerpt from one of the multiple Monsanto documentaries:

The state of affairs in 1999 includes Linda Fisher moving from the Environmental Protection Agency to Monsanto, Michael Friedman from the FDA to Monsanto, Marcia Hale and Josh King from the White House to Monsanto, Margaret Miller from Monsanto to the FDA, William Ruckelshaus from the EPA to Monsanto, and let’s not forget Michael Taylor who went back and forth several times.

Monsanto employees are flopping between the company and the government at the highest of levels and in areas that could change the biology of the Earth for centuries to come could at nicest be described as a conflict of interest, and at the strictest could be described as a crime against humanity. Because Monsanto has made a business out of biogenetics – roundup ready crops can only be bought for a single season – you are not allowed to replant the previous years seeds at a penalty that could cost everything you own. Much like the RIAA Monsanto has been trying to create a profit by becoming as litigious as possible filing loads of lawsuits because they knowingly have the upperhand in lawyers. Also it’s a great way to eliminate your competition – which happens to be individual farm owners and not giant impenetrable behemoth corporations (which makes it super convenient for Monsanto).

Now I’m not just calling Monsanto a giant impenetrable behemoth without just cause. I’m not doing it to belittle it, but Monsanto has been the poster child for what is going wrong in the world of biotechnology today. A couple paragraphs up I linked a documentary on Monsanto. I’m going to do it again to be sure if you don’t believe in the unethical practices Monsanto is engaging in that you know the facts you’re up against. It’s called The World According to Monsanto. This is not the only documentary on Monsanto and its unethical practices, but it’s the only one available on the internet. It kills me when people get defensive of big business as if the very suggestion of unethical practices in the area of business deserves to be scoffed. But these are not men and women who dedicate their lives to peace, unity, the Universe, God, cohesion – they are dedicated to making a profit. What makes more logical sense? That Monsanto insists on creating a new seed every year because it’s a great way to turn a profit or because they just want to update to the genetically best enhanced version for their customers and don’t want previous batches soiling it? In the area of business profit is more than essential. And this should settle the argument alone because even Monsanto’s public relations chief said:

Monsanto should not have to vouch for the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.

Wow, Monsanto-claus, why didn\'t I think of that!
Wow, Monsanto-claus, why didnt I think of that!

I stress that point so much because I feel people would rather believe it’s alarmist than make a stand against such methodological manipulation. All of these moves by Monsanto and its employees who went to and from the government have clear reasons to be motivated by profit and little else. The astoundingly lax standards on such an unknown technology with the obvious influence of Monsanto Employees within the agency that governs it – and because Monsanto is a corporation it makes no secrets that it’s number one responsibility is to his shareholders. Now – before people get confused – I’m not saying there is anything wrong with capitalism – that is a totally separate issue. But the government is put in place to ensure safety for all before a rabid desire of profit. Because, after all what is capitalism but another complex game we play to make things seem less confusing. So at what point do we know when to say “Hey, that’s unethical and a total detriment to nearly everybody but yourself”? The government is our agreed upon source for that. So when those who desire primarily to profit go into an agency of governing its own product to a pretty advantageous degree – that is wrong.

How advantageous? Remember earlier how I described the process of transgenics – like an infection? Creating genetically engineered plants with bad infections is obviously bad and illegal. But the fact remains – creating genetically engineered plants with good infections is not the same as making a regular plant (ie. planting just a regular seed). But high level biogenetics companies like Monsanto in the 80’s were already working very closely with the government on a new and upcoming technology – genetically modified plants.  Biogenetic companies seemed to try and portray the dutiful American by promising the wonders we’ve previously imagined that biogenetics could provide. But there was just one tiny eency weency problem – the industry hadn’t even begun yet – it was still completely in its infancy. There was no data to prove that Genetically Modified organisms were safe. “Well shucks!” says the GMO (biotech) companies, “If you want to be the best in the world we need to get started right away. It’s just un-American to not let us lead in such a dream-delivering idea. Hey – I got an idea, judge us by our product, not by our process.”

This is known as substantial equivalence. Basically if you breed a new strain of corn by taking two types of centuries old, untainted breeds you would not need to go to the FDA to get it approved. So the GMO companies say “That’s basically exactly what we’re doing – but instead of naturally breeding we’ll just forcefully infect whatever parts of whatever species we please – but it’ll look identical to corn so it’s close enough. That’s what substantial equivilance is – The law of close enough. It’s like saying I’ve come up with a new way to slaughter cows for mass production – and as long as the meat isn’t covered in e-coli or Mad Cow I have the right to sell it regardless of the process of how I butchered it. But if I butchered it in a way that was totally unsafe for the environment I’ll never have to have a legal repercussion for that because we made a deal not to assess my process – only my product. And the government bought it hook line and sinker – but once again most likely with internal help. Finally after a lawsuit the FDA was forced to release documents proving it knew there was potential danger with the products that are not going to occur in naturally occurring plants. And that took a lawsuit – there was no apology and it’s still in effect. Why wouldn’t we want to know what the dangers to GM food is? Denise Caruso quotes from a critic (Linda Kahl) of the substantial equivalence product –

I believe there are at least two situations relative to this document in which it is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The first… is that the document is trying to force an ultimate conclusion that there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices.  This is because of the mandate to regulate the product, not the process. The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks. There is no data that addresses the relative magnitude of the risks – for all we know, the risks may be lower for genetically engineered foods than for foods produced by traditional breeding. But the acknowledgment that the risks are different is lost in the attempt to hold to the doctrine that the product and not the process is regulated…. [The second square peg is] the approach of at least part of the document is to use a scientific analysis… to develop policy statement. In the first place, are we asking the scientific experts to generate the basis for this policy statement in the absence of any data? It’s no wonder that there are so many different opinions – it is an exercise in hypotheses forced on individuals whose jobs and training ordinarily deal with fact

Regardless the FDA approved the law of substantial equivalence. But for the biggest reason on why it’s obvious that profit is the primary motivation we have to revisit bio.org. Simply looking at the slogan and the picture on the site one would assume the organization is around for the benefit of life. Yet the picture is truly symbolic – it is a picture of a plant growing out from dirt on top of a hand. Previously we only needed to put plants into just dirt to have them grow, but it is literally the goal of this site to remove that ability from you in exchange for growing your food out of their own hands. Even on the front page we can see profit is primarily the focus in this organization as all the entries seem to be directed at shareholders. Today there is a link to a blog entry called Science is your brand. The problem with language like that is that you’re speaking as if you’re talking to consumers – people who are looking for personal gain – not gain for humanity. And it’s true – the blog addresses shareholders letting them know to “protect their investment.” The only problem with that is that a shareholder only protects his investment as far as he believes he’s going to make a profit off of it – not to the point that it’s for the benefit of humanity or the world. In fact when we move to the members section of bio.org I start to notice something fishy – like something out of the Stepford Wives or Pleasantville. All the sites seem to be extremely similar. They all have serious scientists doing precision work or happy children and families or caring doctors… and of course the occasional cool close-up picture. In fact looking at the members of bio.org is like strolling down the suburbs of the internet – it is a place where image is more important than information. Lets take a look at some:

Monsanto – I just still am so stunned that Monsanto dares tries to remake its image to be a positive and natural thing when it is most definitely the very definition of unnatural in what they’re doing.

Captial Royalty L.P. – hot looking girl doing something smart, check. double helix invading her skull? Check. What is the site actually for? Seems to be good for distributing money “appropriately” among GMOs, but they keep it vague enough that it just wants to you to give up at finding its actual duties.

Wyeth – Wyeth too has a randomized image maker of looking-out-for-you-doctors and satisfied customers. Thats because Wyeth is the creator of Robitussin and Advil. However it makes you wonder how far they will go, being a pharmaceutical giant, with a technology that has 0 risk assessment – it makes you wonder how many they already did.

PaleoTechnology – Ah yes – the sprawling beauty of nature covering the site following Monsanto’s lead in replacing facts with nice pictures. Of course it’s vague but it seems they have the crazy idea of finding solutions to our “problems associated with existing technologies” (ie. the oil crisis) by looking at oil. Who would have such backward logic but an oil company with too many assets to find a real alternative? Well their parent company – PetroHunter – seems to be quite close with Encana Oil & Gas as all of their producing wells are operated by Encana, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world.

Scigen – A Singapore company also directly related to bio.org. Again we see the surgeon-like hands doing careful scientific work and of course the happy little girl and boy jumping for joy. With those plus the cool blue background the site figures you need little more information now – so they politely explain that they do work dealing with endocrinology and immunology. Now these items are seriously important – I have a family member who is very close to me that could use the sciences of endocrinology so he doesn’t need to take pills every day multiple times a day for his entire life (which hopefully will be very long), so it’s not that I’m insensitive to the work… but how can you possibly work on genetically engineered immunities without assessing the risk? Also I find it interesting that this company is based in Singapore but all the key executives for the company aside from a secretary are white males (she seems to be doing her best to look like one though).

Yorktown Technologies, L.P. – Another fine innovative member of bio.org. They create the product known as Glofish (which come in 3 exciting colors! Electric Green, Starfire Red, or Sunburst Orange!) which are exactly what they sound like – fish that glow in the dark. What are they created for? For you! And your friends! They’ve genetically modified a species of fish for the sole purpose of making them glow in the dark. God knows what other parts of species ended up in these fish – but Glofish are an excellent example of where do we draw the line? and especially what about the risk of genetically modified pets? At what point do we agree that genetic infection stops here? Glofish are a promise by the biotech industry that there is no brake.

Spaltudaq – Though the company explains their website is under construction we can clearly see that they are nearly complete. They have their exciting picture of technology up there that gives us (the reader) only feelings – not facts. My only suggestion is that the site put up a scientist or a doctor doing something really important – and to balance out the seriousness put a happy family or some children. But again – they are part of bio.org and totally for pushing ahead on a technology that has no risk assessment and making it sound like they know what they’re talking about – even though nobody does. But it is clear that they are working on these technologies for the ultimate goal of profit like all the other sites on bio.org

Sound Pharmaceuticals – Here is another company part of bio.org that is under construction – oh wait, no it’s not. It’s easy to get them confused because they all look so similar – under construction or not. This site is interesting because they plan on restoring hearing by regenerating your cells – obviously with the intent to profit which would be totally fine except for the process has unassessed risks (did we cover this thoroughly enough yet, because it seems a lot of people like to forget that part).

I made this picture myself and it says - Oh yea sure guys. I always thought biotechnology was a good idea. Honest! I agree with you completely

I made this picture myself and it says - Oh yea sure guys. I always thought biotechnology was a good idea. Honest! I agree with you completely

These are just randomly chosen sites (aside from precious Monsanto) out of the hundreds that cover the “Members” section on bio.org. You come across behemoth companies like Wyeth who need to stay on top financially and apparently are willing to risk our safety by supporting products that we do no know the risk to but are put out into our environment. Other companies such as Paleotechnology can be connected to other big companies that need to stay on top financially at any expense. Once again – this can be argued with reason – the cohesiveness and community-minded ability that naturally occurs within the individual is lost when profits, jobs, and livelihoods are at stake. Now let’s look at some other members of bio.org:

Yale – Wow. My argument seems weaker and weaker the more I wrangle in established names (such as Monsanto, Wyeth, and now Yale). I mean everybody has the conception that Yale is a totally respectable top-of-the-line University. Which is exactly why multi-billion dollar corporations have descended upon the Ivy-League Universities as now they seem to solely be preparing for private work. There is a solid and fair argument against today’s higher education being controlled too much by the market. As if this entry wasn’t going to be long enough, I’ll have to save all the details of that for another time. But if you are interested in the subject of Higher Education focusing too much on money and less on academics I suggest the book The University, State, and Market: The Political Economy of Globalization in the Americas. But basically the point is that that this privatization of our educational direction means if what the school is funding isn’t financially beneficial then the program should be cut. Diversity is shunned and grant money is the new direction. The problem with this is that it makes our educational system far less objective, because those who dangle the grant money are usually doing it for a profitable (not necessarily publicly beneficial) project. So how do we prove this privatization of the educational system is occurring? Well those who fund the programs shouldn’t be actively ready to patent what is discovered under their grant. Essentially that would be like employing the students directly. A notorious example of this was in 1998 when another pharmaceutical company that is a member of by bio.org named Novartis promised $25 million to the University of California, Berkeley in exchange for rights to negotiate licenses on roughly a third of the departments discoveries – including results of research funded by state and federal sources – the results have not been beneficial for the public.

Well it goes to show that the Yale Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Society is sponsored seemingly entirely by for-profit enterprises (Note the opportunity for sponsors to participate in a variety of their programs). Sponsors such as Bristol-Meyers Squibb (you’ll do yourself a favor to not click that link and hear the most obnoxious video of your life) and Achillion Pharmaceuticals are also members of bio.org. In fact, the only sponsor that seems remotely related to the state is a company called Connecticut United for Research Excellence in which Achillion and Bristol-Meyers Squibb are again members. And maybe all of this would be okay but the simple fact remains there are known risks in the process of biogenetics that are not being assessed. And the federal government, Connecticut, Yale, Monsanto, Achillion, Wyeth, and virtually everybody else seems okay with just ignoring this. From the highest levels of government we’ve all just been calmed into thinking that refusal to physically contain genetically modified plants and animals allowing them to spread in nature as they please with unknown risks as it has never been done before is okay. We should know better than this. Let me continue on with the story of some other members of Bio.org:

Calgene – Calgene doesn’t have its own website anymore despite being part of bio.org. Monsanto bought them out and now owns 100% of the shares. Instead that link takes you to the Wikipedia entry on Flavr Savr tomatoes – a legend in the biogenetics industry. Calgene was one of the first companies to try and make a profit off of this miracle technology – if it went right they’d be a pioneer in the industry. So even though their project wasn’t quite as noble as curing totally debilitating diseases prenatally, they did pick a serious problem for almost everybody in America and the world. Tomatoes! The problem was when tomatoes grew ripe they also became soft and shipping soft tomatoes is difficult. Well Prince Calgene comes down from his castle in his sky with his miracle solution: “We’ll just modify the ripening and softening genes so that doesn’t happen anymore. Fresh ripe delicious tomatoes for everyone!” then Prince Calgene went up into his cloud castle and returned with his tomatoes and held out his hand for payment.

But the people planted the Calgene Tomato called The Flavr Savr. But less than 20% of the harvest were the quality promised by Calgene. And when they tried to ship them in hopes to have the firm, ripe tomatoes Prince Calgene promised, they were actually not as good as the traditional shipment of green tomatoes losing more tomatoes than ever. Prince Calgene couldn’t handle all the problems with his seemingly perfect idea – it all fell apart on him. And as he died confused at why his little Frankenstein didn’t work the giant cyclops Monsanto came and swallowed him whole, stole the best of the technology, and began to make its own profitable tomatoes from it. But Calgene’s Flavr Savr problem was not only short-sighted on the type of tomato used but also the actual usefulness of their tomatoes. The studies produced by Calgene found a significant amount of stomach lesions on the rats that were tested and although this was addressed by the FDA somebody approved it regardless to push it through. It seriously begs the question how many things are not being appropriately tested with this totally new technology? And already we’re seeing negative results from this new type of technology – and it is because people were so hurry to turn a profit that they figured things and used political leverage to make it work. What specifically I’ll get to shortly, but first there is one more member of bio.org I’d like to take a look at:

Syngenta – After a terrible meteorite accident near a nuclear factory Captain Syngenta was given powers of a superhero thusly earning the right to determine the future of global foods. Syngenta decided that he would always use his powers for good, not evil. His first mission – save the blind and starving millions. There is our problem, and now Captain Syngenta invokes the power of transgenics for our miracle solution. He created a type of rice that had beta-carotene in it to produce vitamin A which helps sight (We all knew that anyway, thats why we eat our carrots). The people rejoiced and it was called gold rice because surely it would be as precious as gold to the starving and blind. It literally took millions of dollars to create and adapt while other countries use much cheaper supplementation programs. The vitamin A was easily lost losing its minimal nutritional value simply by being boiled or stored inappropriately. In fact the nutritional value was so little it wasn’t enough to help most cases of blindness due to vitamin A deficiency. But this is the biggest reason why it’s not okay – anybody can argue that it still has a case with what I wrote above – but the most significant problem is this: They are living beings and they need to be exposed to the environment, and then they interact with that environment.

You know which side Im on

You know which side Im on

GMOs make no pretentions that they know how to contain their products that they grow. Do you know how hard it was to write about genetics for this long and not bring this point up yet? But think about it – these companies are making living beings that will be put into the environment to grow. They could easily mess with a whole species DNA because there are no built-up immunities or relationships between the species. Monsanto has transgenic bentgrass that ended up 13 miles downwind. And this is the same company that sues you if they find their transgenic crops on your property – that is ludicrously criminal. And Golden Rice, like any rice, cross-pollinates with other plants. Now these are infected plants with infectious traits. And because we know absolutely nothing of these long term effects it’s important to keep track of them and study them before releasing them to the world. We need to have higher standards for our science forefronts – we can’t just hope it won’t decimate a biosphere. Additionally they are already seeing mutations within the rice. The information I used to recite to you the history of Golden Rice came from Denis Caruso – only she didn’t make the superhero analogy.

Golden Rice and Bentgrass are not the only example of genetically engineered plants causing trouble. For one, Genetically Modified plants have been a source of negative contamination for naturally grown plants. Additionally it’s being found out now that genetically modified plants, including Monsanto’s poison-resistant crops, are having a negative effect on the insect community, from bees to butterflies. This is really terrible if you really think about it. If our pollinating insects can’t handle these crops (an unforseen consequence both Captain Syngenta and Prince Calgene know all too well that it’s fucking impossible to predict all the factors of a genetically modified species). And the worst part of it all is that biotechnology could be such an integral part of our society – but because we didn’t take the time to do the objective research first, and because we refuse to acknowledge the unforeseen genetic mutations in the plants, and because we insist we already know what we’re doing – it will be a detriment to our society.

On top of the problems above, genetically modifying anything is costly and inefficient, especially without an objective focus (hence glofish to regenerative hearing, to oil biogenetics). But animals are also genetically modified. If you thought glowing fish might be pushing the limit – why not glowing pigs? Now we are at the forefront of human technology and Taiwanese researchers found nothing better to do than genetically change pigs so they glow. The article goes on to say that it isn’t anything special because other people have made pigs glow before. Seriously? Seriously seriously? Has this what transgenics has come to? Trying to make the most florescent pig by ripping the fabric of life and mutating a pig into a now partial jellyfish-pig. Within the article it also notes the laborious work it took to get 3 glow-in-the-dark pigs. Out of 265 pig embryos only 3 came out how they wanted them to. What else does this say about the field of biotechnology aside from that it’s still deep in its infancy? It comes down to something I heard somewhere that I forgot – it’s the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Is waiting all year for plants to bear fruit in the spring efficient? Not necessarily – but is it effective? Absolutely. Are changing the genes of animals for our benefit efficient? That’s what’s promised (though it’s not currently), but is it effective? No. Always within genetically modified animals is the appropriate birthrate near 0.

Even in death...

Even in death...

And remember Dolly, the first cloned sheep? It was hailed as a breakthrough but even she had her troubles. After fertilizing over 25,000 eggs only 134 calves were produced and out of the 134 only 9 were transgenic. 9 out of 25,000.  And then as soon as she was rushed out into the global spotlight to hail her success Dolly died prematurely with arthritis and lung disease. How much did going through the transgenic process affect her health? We will never know because scientists aren’t looking at that – because it’s not profitable and doesn’t “bring in the grants.” In fact one of the few studies done that can be publicly seen on transgenic animals have found that out of a total of 12,000 transgenic embryos, only 207 of them, resulted in live births. Transgenic animals that didn’t turn out as expected didn’t live as long. These are reasons – solid reasons – why we should hold up a brakelight to transgenics. Not to say they can never do it – but at least hold off on the profiting of such an industry. Have some self respect and know solidly what the risks are instead of just ignoring it entirely.

Transgenic salmon are another miracle fix through transgenics. The concept is to infect fish so that they grow alarmingly fast but so they don’t pose a danger to the environment they must be sterilized too. If a transgenic salmon gets released into the wild it could become invasive. And there are hundreds of invasive species already – but imagine what a totally unnatural life-form could do that is genetically engineered to be bigger and grow faster than other species. A company called Aqua Bounty Farms seems to be the attempted miracle-worker this time. Again, the site design looks like it might be a mafia front for money laundering, but the picture in the corner speaks for itself – transgenic 6 month-year-old salmon in front and eensy-weensy regular 6 month-year-old salmon in the back. Now let’s look at all the unforeseen consequences that occurred with all of the other transgenic things above – now look at the 6-month year old transgenic salmon. The battle here is between two different parts of your brain – the part of you that says “Bigger faster = better” is more in the amygdala (I’d assume) part of your brain because it is a quick emotional reaction. However if we use the more developed parts of our brain – we recognize that this may not be better considering that every single transgenic experiment (even foods approved by the FDA) have had unforeseen consequences, many of which are infecting the rest of the planet. But – can we find anybody who will promote transgenic salmon hands down? Yes we can – of course it’s bio.org again – and look who’s a member – Aqua Bounty. Interesting huh? Now this multi-billion dollar organization wouldn’t be pushing the concept of FDA-approved transgenic fish for the purposes of profit over all else, would it? Does that seem plausible at all? Especially when Monsanto themselves admitted that is their number 1 goal? I mean they have NO RIGHT to pretend they can use objective reasoning with an un-assessed technology which their whole company rides on – there is no way that they will be hunting for potential problems – undoubtedly this project has cost them millions – and for what? To get it thrown down the tube because one of their own employees, someone who is siphoning their own money, tells them it needs to stop? I wouldn’t even put up with that in that situation – it’s just such a substantial amount of money to be invested into a mistake. So the mistake is promised to be fixed by another mistake and yet promised to be fixed by another mistake and yet another and so on until billions are tied up in this technology that is being forced to bare fruition, regardless of risk.

How could you possibly say no?!

How could you possibly say no?!

Ultimately the problem with biotechnology is that we have not studied this area of science well enough. In normal circumstances that would be fine because they could just keep testing but the problem is that we are already exposing biotechnology to the world. But don’t worry – scientists have thought of this and have come up with a few ways to manage this situation. First – the idea of physical confinement isn’t even on the table. Labs and test fields in the middle of nowhere are too expensive and not 100% guaranteed so scientists came up with the term “biological confinement.” For instance with the Transgenic Salmon – so they don’t end up becoming an invasive species with their supernatural evolutionary gains they are made “mostly” sterile. The man in the NOVA video said that if these salmon get loose (which is being dealt with as a 100% possibility as fish farms lose fish all the time) and somehow reproduce they would decimate the salmon population because they would be the first to mate but unlikely to have healthy (or living) offspring. They could still be eaten by predators and the effect of the salmons genes on the predator are unknown – as the biotechnology industry still has done 0 risk assessment by doing these experiments in a physically confined place. So they would also plan on feeding the salmon something that can’t be found in nature and that is only manmade – Denise Caruso uses skittles as an example. Aside from this still not being effective what kind of Frankenstein monsters are we really making here? Everything that is occurring is unnatural – they’d even be fed on something unnatural – and there is no idea of the long term effect on people or the environment. And yet this is allowed.

The Biotech industry has come up with insidious methods to “biologically confine” all sorts of species. A way to biologically confine engineered microbes is to make them highly demanding of energy to survive. However if that microbe can adapt such as the bacteria has against anti-bacterial soap the threshold effect will take place and there most likely will be unforeseen consequences. For plants another company absorbed by the gluttonous Monsanto developed plants to produce sterile seeds to biologically confine them. Can you feel the magnitude of that? We would be refusing our food sources to reproduce naturally. Are we really okay with letting this technology blow about this planet and infuse these corrosive genes into our natural bounty?! While it is not sold commercially both Monsanto and the USDA have continued to develop it. There is such a demand for biological confinement already including for those herbicide-resistent plants that are being blamed for our insect dilemmas provided above. Another type of biologically confined species so gruesome and slavish Denise Caruso explains:

there are plants and animals engineered to produce pharmaceuticals, vaccines or industrial chemicals – a genre often referred to as “pharming” – which have the capacity to harm people or other species that might accidentally consume them…. the purpose of pharming is simply to use the plant or animal as a cheaper or more productive (or both) living factory for the substance, which will then be harvested.

Biological confinement has been unsuccessful (much to Monsanto’s litigious joy). In 2005 when Denise Caruso wrote her book 62 cases of contamination in 27 countries have occurred with transgenic crops. Today, in 2008, there are 216 cases of contamination in 57 countries. And, as shown in the link in the parantheses Monsanto is profiting off of their own contamination of crops. So not only are we engineering poorer quality products but we are infecting healthier and beneficial plants all over the world with poorer qualities. So in other words biotech companies are forcing us slowly into their dependency. They already demand that you pay yearly for seeds. This is our food, this is one of our few essential sources needed for survival on our planet. Why are we letting them fuck with us so bad? Because billions are invested into it. The most powerful pharmaceutical businesses, biotech companies, educational facilities, and oil companies are all depending on it to bring them their miracle source of profit.

Well John, I guess we didnt see that coming with the terminator gene. But you win some you lose some ya know?

Well John, I guess we didnt see that coming with the terminator gene. But you win some you lose some ya know?

To hit home this point Denise Caruso tells a story of the GM Nation survey done in the UK to determine the public opinion of GM crops. The study overwhelmingly reported that the public was not happy with the idea of GM crops being planted on their lands based on the fact that nobody knows the long-term risk of doing this. Regardless the government allowed GM crops to be planted on their land. But how do the GMO companies still support their work after such a lack of support? They find sites that look like they’re straight out of the mid-90s to skew all the data so it wasn’t an appropriate sample of the whole of the UK. Another tactic to muddy the data against GM products made by a site called PG Economics. Where it doesn’t take long to find that the ones who run the site have a history of working for the GM companies – including, yes, Monsanto. They must go through some sort of brainwashing program and then send them out on their own to continue pretending theres a market for these poorly planned or understood products. Is that an overexaggeration aimed at stripping the opposite view on GM organisms? Not really – as Monsanto was caught having bribed at least 140 government officials in Indonesia so it wouldn’t have to provide an environmental assessment for its Bt cotton. If Monsanto were a person he would be considered a heinous criminal, but because it’s a corporation and armies of lawyers are attached we have to pretend that their warped view of the world should come above all else. And like those who oppose global warming is occurring, they don’t need solid fact to back up their claim, they just need to create enough confusion to not have to deal with the problem directly. And this tactic can be very divisive.

Monsanto was also part of a subpoena in 2005 along with Goodrich,  Goodyear, Union Carbide and 20 in total chemical companies that are refusing a release of a book. They are restricting our freedom of knowledge. The book was to be about corporate cover-ups of industrial pollution written by two highly regarded professors from NYU and Columbia. At the same time the forefront of science and technology are hidden behind these doors with refusal to publish anything about their work unless it’s positive or forced by law. Big biotech, chemical, and pharmaceutical companies are not trying to be progressive, they’re trying to be profitable, they’ve never explained it any differently. They are not directly accountable for their actions. Many companies create their biotech dream, watch it fail, and then go defunct – and if that failed biotech project has an extremely negative effect on the world at large – we will have no one to hold responsible – and if we did, what’s the use? The damage is irrevocable due to unassessed risk.

And these ideas that we can use biotechnology for anything keep occurring. In 2004 a professor thought it’d be a good idea to plant trees that could absorb mercury, break it down into a “less harmful form” and release it into the atmosphere. Maybe – just maybe – there should be some regulations on this stuff? I can’t even walk off a trail in some places in this country for public fear of ruining the natural environment and we’re allowing professors who know no risks to transgenics plant trees that want to put mercury into the air? Another type of scary technology is known as “DNA synthesis” which attempts to construct gene and genome length DNA fragments from scratch. Again, there is no risk assessment on this. Yet despite being virtually alone working in the field the company has raised millions of dollars for their work. This could create entirely new species or change existing organisms “for useful purposes.” The company is called Synthetic Genomics and yes, they are also a part of bio.org. The founder of the company is none other than Dr. Craig Venter. Notice how the author of that article, a microbiologist for NYU, is ecstatic about the creation of the new company on his creepily named blog “biosingularity.” Anytime I find an evangelist supporter of biotechnology I love to find their reasoning, for him, he follows biotechnology blindly because:

I aim to follow and contribute to these advances with the hope that they will have positive impact on our health, greatly increasing our lifespans, enhancing our standard of living and improving our environment.

(Italics and bolded print are mine!)

Great. A microbiologist for NYU and he is being led by the same faith of hope as the religious. He follows these “advances” because he knows they will have a positive impact on our health and whatever and whatever? No. He follows these “advances” because evidence strongly supports that they will have a positive impact on our health and whatever? No. He follows these advances because he strongly believes risks have been greatly minimized to the public on these technologies? No. He hopes. And do you know why he hopes? Because the above statements are impossible for him to say because there are no studies – there are no risk assessments – only blind capitalism and hidden investors hungry for a 10-fold-return on their investment for doing absolutely nothing with it personally.

So who is this Dr. Craig Venter that founded Synthetic Genomics? He is famous for sequencing the human genome – for understanding what all the parts of a human gene look like. He became infamous for backing academia and then switching to backing industry. The battle for funding these exhaustively expensive projects was a choice between dealing with a bureaucratic government or vociferously voracious for-profit industry. Dr. Venter decided that with his research he should be able to pop out a few products that should return a profit – but at what risk? We’ll never know because assessment of risk in this undeniably highly controversial field will not occur. The private industry has held governments at bay on regulations with confusion and sweet whispers of miracles. If you don’t believe me there was a whole book written on it – and it explains how much of the advancement is controversial and ego-oriented, hardly in the publics best interest.

No - shes serious

No - shes serious

In fact profiting from the human genome has already had significant steps taken for it. When Craig Venter sequenced the human genome he could not have done so without public records, yet now he supports privatization of the human genome down to individual genes or even smaller. What does this mean? Well for giant biotech, pharmaceutical, and chemical companies it simply means investors (who literally do nothing but already own a lot of money they don’t care to share) need only to patent a part of the gene and if it is used for the purpose of any cure or idea they can profit off of it. So basically it means people who already have a bunch of money need to do little more than transfer a large amount of money into researching it, patent what’s discovered, and lie in wait for the cure to cancer or for a longer life or for happiness to be found in his now-purchased-gene and then he gets even more money he doesn’t share without a price. I mean working with Satan is hardly any different. What does this mean for reality? It means the patent office is inundated with 20,000+ patents on the human genome right now that are totally private to the outside world. As of Denise Caruso’s book 20% of the human genome had already been patented and some of the genes have been patented as many as 20 times each because they’ve been “improved” upon. Scientists refuse to do any research with the gene because if they discover something and it comes to show some jerk has patented the gene, he is allowed to demand money for simply having the money to put down on it in the first place. So research is halted, or only done with “sure-fire” genes that won’t cost a fortune in the long-run. What makes this more cruel is that these genes are found in each and every one of our bodies – they are beginning to patent what is inherently ours – what comprises you of you. I don’t know how that emotionally affects those who patent it or what lousy excuse or “reason” they can give for it – they are doing nothing but owning us from the inside out, and not letting everybody share the divine knowledge that makes us who we are.

Making a profit from genes and transgenes has become paramount. It comes at the cost of people with the very illnesses they promise to cure. It makes cows produce milk faster. They make farmers pay yearly for crops (our very food source, we must pay to be allowed to grow) all in the name of intellectual property. Just to tell you whats in your genome is becoming a fast growing business. It’s being used to systemize us and control us. And yet when these things get out into the environment – the real world – we have no way to protect ourselves against them if they are harmful (which we don’t know because we haven’t assessed the risks of this technology). Detection data is weak and transgenic crops accidentally wind up in all sorts of places they don’t believe. So once its let out into the world it is something we must deal with regardless of the negative effects of the transgenic crop or animal. If it decimates an entire species, food-staple, or region there is absolutely no repercussion strong enough to make the ends justify the means. The company that produced the rotten transgene would go bankrupt and the world would suffer and be forced to depend on this new infectious transgene because there are no other alternatives. In fact, Syngenta, the makers of the useless golden rice described earlier had contaminated a strain of corn en-route to Japan, who has much stricter guidelines on their food than America. However New Zealand received the same rice as Japan and it went through undetected even though it was contaminated with the transgene. Even biological confinement is a literal impossibility. And what for? Even Syngenta says GM food will not save the world.

Conclusion

So why did I write this? Already it is my longest entry to date (which I regret because people don’t like reading long things) and yet the problems I mentioned are only eclipsed by the problems I haven’t mentioned strictly due to space and time constraints. I see an industry that wants to have its cake and eat it too. Companies as scary as Synthetic Genomics which could create bioterrorism that crushes all bioterrorism (the scariest form of weapons) fill me with nothing other than the feeling that I’ve seen this somewhere before. To me this is a very old story – it comes with the fallacies of mankind – and is most famously portrayed in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Certainly people such as Craig Venter and the rest on the forefront of biotechnology have their visions – just as Frankenstein envisioned his creature as beautiful up until the very point it came to fruition and the disaster realized. But unlike Frankenstein’s monster – the monster tortured relatively few people and died alone out in the Arctic. If any single one of those hundreds of companies at the forefront of biotechnology release a Frankenstein monster into our world – it will not go up to the Arctic to die – it will become invasive – removing the competition of diversity, it will interact with us on the smallest of levels in unknown ways, it could decimate the planet or a food industry. Will they? We simply don’t know – because there are no risk assessments. Too much money is tied up into miracle working these days and people forget about the common good. We have enough technology that is safe for all of us, with risks already assessed, that would not take the financial weight to get the biotech industry off of the ground. But our pharmaceutical companies, our chemical companies, our oil companies – they’ve all found refuge in the sirens songs of genetic technology.

They have the power of life on their fingertips and its hidden behind secret doors with egos and millions of dollars to be lost or gained. But where are the regulations? Where are the risks? Is it okay to throw out into the environment a genetically different species? Animals and plants have no inherent defense intricately primed through ages of evolution to promote diversity and weather naturally-produced problems. Now we are creating unnatural species that natural ones must interact with on a molecular, biological, and environmental level. I mean this could mean the difference between the American midwest being a steppe or a desert. While nobody is opposed to physically confined experiments the biotech industry flaunts a big “fuck you” to having it that way simply because they should be entitled to turn a profit off of their studies. The problem is that if a study ends up with little fruit there is an attempt to create a demand for what is needed – much like Syngenta’s golden rice.

How far will it stretch?

Because I am not a super smart scientist why should my argument be worth anything? My argument started to be worth something the minute they took unassessed transgenic plants outdoors and began having all forms of life interact with it with no proof to me that they know what the fuck they’re doing. I may not be a scientist but I am certainly no idiot. I am not a religious man and the hope that feeds the giddy microbiologist up there and the hope that feeds the Christian desire of the second-coming-of-Christ does not feed my fact-based need for proper risk assessment. I wrote about this because it’s such a complex topic and the reason why it’s not getting taken care of properly most likely is because people don’t have a fucking clue with whats going on in this area so they decide to “leave it to the experts” – who all happen to be foaming at the mouth with profit-rabies. And don’t you dare have the audacity to call me an alarmist or extremist for saying that – there are billions of dollars tied up in that industry – there is a unquenchable desire for profit in an industry like that and the proof lies in the risk assessments. But now with this entry you’re an expert. You’re allowed to say “We don’t have a clue what the long-term effects of these transgenic crops and animals are and until you’ve followed some pretty basic standards in this field – we don’t want to know what you’ve got for us.”

The biggest problem is you’re most likely already eating it – just like many other species on this planet – because we’re not even allowed to know whether a crop was genetically modified or not. Ignorance is what is allowing the biotech company to keep from acting morally responsible – I’ve provided many links of information including Denise Caruso’s book. I don’t know how to compete with millions of dollars, but I do know I can’t stand when we have to pretend something is good when it’s not.

The North Pacific Garbage Patch

Delicious empty plasticUpdate: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

********If you think the North Pacific Garbage Patch is important I strongly suggest you click on this link to my entry on the general state of our oceans. There are more immediate dangers to our ocean other than it being a giant garbage pool (I know! Suck! right?!)*********

********Update: 1/16/10 – Brand new article in Scientific America about the mounting concern about the dangers of BPA – Let’s hope this is the start of the ball we’ve all been waiting for to move on to a biodegradable and safer choice in packaging and containing********

Ecological disasters that affect the Earth on a global scale have been important to me for a long while now. Not because I love to see disasters or that I am a nature freak – but because I see an absolute lack of attention on these issues and I know, being a rational human being, that large ecological disasters need to be addressed – and ecological disasters involving our water is huge. Earlier I wrote an entry on the dilapidated Aral Sea which civilization hides what remains of the skeleton in countries forgotten or mocked. Ecological disasters – total and utter disasters – are a massive blind spot in the vision of civilization.

The North Pacific Garbage Patch is easily one of the top 5 blind spots of civilization. Everyday civilization cheerleads over the material benefits it has provided to humanity. Cars, money, alcohol, drugs, toys, conversation-pieces, an amazing array of food, plumbing, sneakers, clothes, the list is literally endless. From the depths of South America and Mexico immigrants team towards the United States in droves grasping for the coattails of the lifestyle civilization has provided the “Western” world for the last century. In China and other Southeast Asian countries people are willing to work literally for pennies for a chance at the civilized lifestyle – the chance to get material possessions to miraculously appear like those in the western culture.

Yet the Achilles heal of civilization can be summed up in one sentence: There are infinite desires on this finite planet. Yet Civilization is going full-steam ahead at creating a globalized world and economy. The blood of the Civilized Beast? Oil. It courses thick and hot through the veins as it is at the root of our transportation, which we all know, but it is also at the root of something less-thought-about but more prevalent than gas – plastics.

Plastic comes from oil and civilization has found no end for its uses. If we stopped using everything that used plastic today we wouldn’t have computers, cars, medical equipment, cookware, most bottles, most supermarket bags, and so much more. When you have a substance that is so depended on by literally billions of people, but yet is so disposable is the point when you have a problem – that is common sense. We are at that point. We have a problem.

The North Pacific Garbage Patch, the Toxic Soup, Pacific Trash Vortex, Garbage Island, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are just some names that have referred to this problem. And it’s a problem that is still in its infancy to Civilization (which always has something more important to deal with than problems – like profit). The fact that this problem doesn’t even have just one common name shows how unaddressed this problem really is. People can say 9/11 and everybody knows exactly what you’re talking about, but if you start asking people about the North Pacific Garbage Patch many will blankly stare and wait for you to “preach” to them and walk away deeming you as a hippie or environmentalist. Yet 9/11 was two (albeit tall) buildings that only affected people psychologically (outside of those who were actually victims of the attack), but 9/11 did not affect those who watched it on television (over and over and over again) physically – the North Pacific Garbage Patch is affecting us all physically.

The North Pacific Garbage PatchWhat Garbage Patch?

So what is the North Pacific Garbage Patch? Articles found sparsely across the web will all tell you virtually the same thing. Just like a flushing toilet there is a giant rotating vortex in the middle of the substantial Pacific as you can see in the picture. And like massive whirlpools the size of continents will do, they will collect debris from all 4 corners of the ocean and slowly whirl towards the center. This whirlpool is known as the North Pacific Gyre and at the center of it hundreds of thousands of square acres are covered in our plastic. Yes – the plastic you used to cover your leftovers last night, the plastic found around your vitamin water, the plastic bags you brought home from the store, and that plastic trinket you threw away last year and never thought twice about. Slowly it meanders around the gyre toward the center like a black hole.

The comparison to the black hole falls apart when we get to the center. While matter seems to disappear forever once it passes the event-horizon of a black hole, the matter of the North Pacific Gyre simply collects forever. I’m not going to pretend like I’m the expert or that I can tell you more about the garbage patch than others, this entry is more than just simply shouting “Hey – Garbage Patch everyone – big problem!” That job has been done relatively well by few progressive newspapers, but are outshadowed by VBS.TV.

This video by VBS.TV can give you the best information on the North Pacific Garbage Patch to date. In fact I was a little disappointed when I saw the video because I had this entry planned long before the video came out. But obviously everything that is right comes from that video. VBS.TV reports on the things that our multi-billion dollar corporate media empires should be reporting on. They wreak of real people who are simply interested in sharing the world with the world. And it’s all for free.

Bisphenol A, Pesticides, and Other Delicacies Offered on Your Menu This Evening

The source of the problemSince that documentary can show you more than I could ever show you on the North Pacific Garbage Patch I want to take this to the next step. What that documentary shows is frightening to humanity. You hear them speak about the “money shot,” a trail of garbage as far as the eye can see, and how alas, it never was to be. This is because Civilization has stopped giving us a tangible visible enemy, this enemy lurks under the waves and is slowly breaking apart, but not becoming part of the environment, just becoming smaller pieces of plastic.

All of this plastic is floating to an area of the ocean that most of the world has forgotten about – an area twice the size of Texas to an area twice the size of the United States (still no serious studies done on it yet). It may be a large area but very few ocean species live there and humans rarely need to ship or boat through it. So simply because it is owned by no one and isn’t highly traveled, it has become nonexistent to us. Ultimately we have found a garbage dump that costs nothing and is extremely large to fill.

Of course the cost is nothing if you only calculate it in dollars – which is unfortunately still the ignorant way of civilization. Our plastic trash has become an epidemic changing the genetics of animals and humans as well as creating vast stretches of beaches filled with garbage. If I’m going to make the claim that it is indeed changing genetics then I should have to verify this statement. Within that VBS.TV video there is a clip at the end labeled “Extra” in which they ask a Marine Biologist which cites studies done with animals that have been exposed to bisphenol A.

Bisphenol A is a major compound found in plastics. A fact is that bisphenol A mimics estrogen, which is a hormone within our bodies. According to the Marine Biologist in the study, animals exposed to high levels of bisphenol A have had a lower rate in male births because estrogen is primarily a female hormone. In fact a team of government experts on bisphenol A has concluded that the current levels of bisphenol A found within humans today can “impact human health at current levels of exposure.

But – people are going to say what they want to say, right? After all you’ve been drinking from and using plastic your whole life and you aren’t out buying bras or giving birth, are you? The unfortunate reality of this situation is that the negative affects have already began to settle on the human race. Throughout humankind the ratio between males to females have always always always been 1:1. It’s a coin-flip. 50/50. There has been nothing throughout the course of OUR ENTIRE SPECIES that has thrown us off this virtually perfect balance between men and women. Theoretically the idea of a soul-mate exists, the idea that every man could find a woman and every woman could find a man to thrive and prosper happily ever after. But now – that is changing – and of course it would have to begin with those who never accepted plastic into their lives like we do now.

The Inuit now have a birth ratio of 1 boy to every 2 girls. The article vaguely puts “Man-made chemicals” at the root of this issue. However with our brief crash course on bisphenol A and the Pacific Garbage Patch I think we can begin to draw some logical cause-and-effect relationships.

A dead bird with a full belly of plasticsWhy? If you noticed in the VBS.TV documentary they had a researcher on board collecting the plastic in glass jars. Why was he doing this? He was measuring the ratio of zooplankton, the most basic food in the ocean, to plastic. Why is this significant? Because more complex animals like to eat the plankton. The problem is with all animals (humans included) is that we’re lazy and if there is something more convenient to eat then why not eat that instead? Why go home and cook a perfectly done steak when you can stop at McDonalds? Are you trading both taste and quality for convenience? Yes. Animals do the same thing. There is so much plastic in the North Pacific Gyre that there is roughly 10 pounds of plastic for every 1 pound of plankton. In Part 10 of the VBS.TV video he shows a sample of about 1000 to 1 ratio.

Once again, so what? Small fish are as lazy as people and instead of eating McDonalds they choose to eat plastic, what’s the big deal? Aside from plastic having no nutritional value and doesn’t digest (similar to McDonalds again, har har har) plastic also happens to be a convenient spongy absorber of some of the most toxic chemicals on the planet (once again Humanity and Civilization may take a bow for creating these personal Frankensteins). What kind of chemicals? PCBs, DDTs, and many other pesticides and poisonous chemicals created from around the world. Animals consume these.

And again, the ignorant will drum, “So what!? It’s still not us that has the problem!” But that is not true. Now we have plastic and poison sitting inside of billions of species of fish, birds, and mammals because as one consumes the other up the food chain the plastic and poisons remain part of their system. And these are the same animals that we eventually end up eating. So why is it affecting the Inuit first? Because they eat directly from the ocean and their birthrate is telling us that plastic has permeated the ocean so severely that is is affecting land-dwelling animals – us – humans. If this continues we will be forcing ourselves, our children, and their children to eat the poison and plastic created by us and our prior generations for whimsical convenience. Again – there is no rate of slowing down, there is no attempt at removing plastics from our lives. We have wedded to it as Siamese twins are wedded to each other and we will influence each other similarly.

Plastic pellets, which create every plastic thing you know, are created and sold with no worry of regulations, with no worry of shutting down. The picture to the right shows us how novel plastic is – you can even purchase pellets that glow in the dark! Well how cool is that!? Meanwhile it is getting broken down into invisible chunks in the ocean and infecting life as we know it.

A New Way

What I really wanted to focus on though is a new way of thinking that needs to come from you – the individual. Nobody can rid their life completely of plastic, but first things first, people need to know that this is a serious serious serious threat to both humanity and life as we know it. We need to push news organizations to cover the North Pacific Garbage Patch and tell our governments (all our governments) to start doing something to fix it, and we need to openly know all of the problems it is causing us. Nobody within the civilized world is innocent – indeed those who are innocent, like the Inuit, are the first to deserve compensation. We need to know the scale of the problem. We need to know what we can do with it if cleaning it is virtually impossible. We need to become creative in a positive and progressive way.

How do we do that? Not like this. That is a link to a Globe-and-Mail article on the North Pacific Garbage Patch. Do you want to read about it? Do you want to learn more about it? Well too bad because unless you’re going to cough up $5, you’re NOT going to read it. And guess how many people are willing to pay $5 to read an article? None with a life, I’ll answer you that. Topics like the North Pacific Garbage Patch can NOT GET OUT SOON ENOUGH. In fact, the government should be paying people to stand on sidewalks shouting this at people.

Another good idea on what this monstrosity isAnother way to NOT be progressive about this whole thing is to skirt important issues such as this google-advertised website that seems uncharacteristically positive on the absolute permeation of plastic. It links to articles that disseminate concerns as nothing to lose sleep over. Indeed there are videos near the bottom in which they interview a woman from the American Chemistry Council shaming the media for saying anything negative about plastics and claiming the safety for all within them. She claims we must “look at all the facts” and that these products are entirely safe. Of course there is no mention of the Inuit birth ratio, the fact that BPA acts as an estrogen, and that our oceans are literally garbage dumps for plastic. In fact, if you can find out what specific individuals run that site, I’m sure we’ll quickly find connections to the plastic industry. A “factsonplastic.org” is something worthy of checking out (not always true though), a “factsonplastic.com” is something worthy of being suspicious of, profit is still the main motivation. I took the liberty to check it out myself because some of these articles just skirt the issue entirely. Factsonplastic.com seems to cite STATS.org as their “factual” reference. But one look at that site and I got suspicious again (and see? It’s a .org site), but here’s why:

The article that got me suspicious was this article: Why Journalism is Failing the Public on the Risk from Plastic. So why does STATS.org say that journalism is failing the public on the risk from plastic? No – not because it’s not reporting on the giant sewage pit you can spy with a telescope from atop the Golden Gate Bridge (exaggeration guys, I dont know if that’s true), but instead it’s because they are fretting TOO MUCH about plastic. The article comes to sooth you from the aggressive media attacks on the evils of plastic. Wait, what? Since when does the media talk about plastic – the most pervasive and essential item to the entire civilized world? Well actually, Google Trends reveals that the media actually almost never talks about plastic at all, and it’s spoken far less about than Iraq – which only affects the people who are in the country. So how is the media being “highly selective and judgmental”? Well actually they were just simply reporting the findings of the government, such as the scientific study I linked above, and that Canada is considering banning BPAs. But STATS.org takes you down a dark path of twisted words and questionable logic, but that’s okay, you don’t have to waste your time reading that BS – they bold and italicize the only words you need to know: some concern, some concern, negligible concern, negligible concern, minimal concern, possibility but not a certainty, the panel then raised the Tolerable Daily Intake of BPA, not only not to ban BPA but to increase the level permitted. Those are just some of the terms they skew this “scientific” article with. They fill you with doubts and ideas that because plastics are increased somewhere that it still doesn’t have a long-term affect. All of those concerns (which the article is happy to dismiss to focus on the probability they just created using those terms) say nothing about long-term exposure to the environment. NONE of them. They all focus on the fact that if you go and touch BPA right now that you will not be infected and murdered.

So I looked at the Staff of “STATS.org” because there seemed nothing unbias about that article at all. A simple Google search of the President and the #1 result is from a website known as Sourcewatch, with the slogan “Your Guide to Names Behind the News” – interesting. S. Robert Lichter is the president of STATS.org and in the past was strongly affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute which “succeeds in placing its people in influential governmental positions.” Additionally the American Enterprise Institute is a basis for neoconservatives and is extremely pro-business (and pro-plastic! what’s business without plastic?). And still S. Robert Lichter is a paid consultant of Fox News, the right-wing news source in the media. And though STATS.org touts being used by influential news organizations S. Robert Lichter condemns Peter Arnett, who has a solid history of reporting war for what it really is – someone who taught us all what real news reporting is. In this day and age it does not take very many brain cells to connect S. Robert Lichter to the current, lying, economy-ruining, big-business, torture-promoting, checks-and-balances-avoiding neoconservatives. Yet it is his website that is the source for a website called “FACTSONPLASTIC.COM.” It is obvious that he has no desire to see plastics being treated with unbiased factual information, which is why whoever he’s affiliated with created such a deceiving and misleading website. This is what needs to change! It’s sad for humanity to allow people like S. Robert Lichter to have such power even though it is clear he has a heavy, uninformed bias.

It’s sick that we allow humans such as above to determine the life of us and generations to come of all species. This isn’t a forest fire – this is plastic – it doesn’t go away and it’s changing, poisoning, and killing everything. But one way to begin to be progressive about this is to get the word out. In the VBS.TV video the person getting the samples of plankton-to-plastic said that it’s impossible to clean or fix. But I’m going to have a little more faith in humanity than that.

Our Future? Or Our Past?A start is how simply this teenager found a way to make plastic degrade in 3 months time. Instead of never. That’s a good first step. I don’t have the answers, but it’s high time we make plastic the forefront of our attention. Logically, from looking at the pieces of plastic picked up on the VBS.TV documentary and knowing the true scale of plastic-to-plankton, knowing the “concerns” from scientists across the board on plastic, and the result of the Inuit birth rate, there is virtually no doubt in my mind whether plastic is harmful. While factsonplastics.com tries to focus on whether a baby bottle will turn your baby into a disfigured monster, the facts are it is being used as a food source by animals, is absorbing toxins, and is likely the cause behind high female birth rate.

***Update*** I got a couple of comments that seem literally offended by this entry – it’s like the same kind of offense you see when you pick on someone’s mom. Let me clear something up quick – I’m not saying we need to scrap everything we’ve ever progressed with and we should wait for trees to fall down naturally and live under them like cavemen, I’m not being unrealistic here… however I AM making the argument that we can do way way better than this. For example – Coal is a dirty, cancerous, and inefficient, however during the early 20th century it was the staple of industrialization. In England it would coat buildings black with soot and cause major health problems for those living nearby. Now is it WRONG for people to recognize the dangers of coal? And is it WRONG for people to want something more energy efficient and healthy? Is it anti-civilization to want something better for humanity and the world? Plastic is unsustainable, isn’t biodegradable, and has significant dangers if we continue or increase our usage. Additionally oil deposits will not be around forever – why would anyone be upset at a movement for a cleaner, healthier, and sustainable way of living? That is all I’m looking for – it’s for my health as well as yours – I’m just being greedy for all of us.

The Congo

Nothing can go wrong-o, I’m in the Congo.

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

Undoubtedly you’ve heard of the Congo and most likely know that it’s located somewhere in Africa. However for most people- especially in the United States- their knowledge of the Congo is summed up in that single sentence. But… people usually get a feeling when thinking about the Congo, even though they know so little. It’s wild, packed with jungle, untouched by civilized man, enigmatic and dark. Blockbuster hits like Congo and outbreaks in the area of the dreaded Ebola virus – one of the (if not THE) most heinous viruses known to man – continue to portray the image of a surreal enchanted land. It is a region of the earth shrouded in mystery as well as misery. It is as if Heaven and Hell were forced to co-exist in one place with the most extremes of good, beauty, and bounty… as well as the most extreme of evil, death and deprivation. 700 years ago when the Divine Comedy was written, Dante passed a sign before he entered Hell: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Many could argue the sign might be more appropriate for the entrance to the Congo.

What is it about the Congo that captures imaginations? The Congo is similar to an ancient, decrepit, haunted house. Far away from the rest of humanity, up on a hill, with lightening flashing in the background and a”Beware” sign hanging crooked on the banging iron gate that leads on to the property. Of course there is one difference – the Congo is full of abundant beauty- which makes it all the more surreal.

Well first what exactly is the Congo? It’s actually a river in Southwest Africa. Just as Buzz Aldrin will never have the fame of Neil Armstrong the Congo River is eclipsed by the Nile River for the longest river in Africa. After the Nile though, no river in Africa comes close. And the second longest river in Africa happens to run straight through the second largest rainforest in the world. The River is so popular two countries were named after it – which makes it a little confusing for conversation. The country to the Northwest of the Congo River is known as the “Republic of the Congo,” or simply Congo-Brazzaville as that is their capital city which is perched right on the edge of the mighty Congo River. African colonies and their “owners”This country deserves a story all its own, but this entry is going to focus on the much larger country to the Southeast – the “Democratic Republic of the Congo” or Congo-Kinshasa (the capitals of the two countries sit directly across the Congo River from each other). It is this country that this entry focuses around because its history is unrivaled and it is soaked in blood.

The Congo River got its name from the old Kingdom of Kongo which has its origins as far back as 1400 and lasted up until 1914 – or at least thats what Wikipedia says. I’m admittedly no expert on early Congo history but it does seem the Kingdom was relatively sound until it came in contact with the Europeans who began using them as slaves turning their own kingdom on itself. Considering the resulting temperament of the region hence, it is reasonable to wonder how many innocent lives could’ve been saved if the “civilized” white Europeans and Americans would’ve greeted the natives they met as simply another culture to learn from. What I mean by that is this:

The year is 1885 and European ego has ballooned to epic proportions as whole nations are making claim to owning the entire continent of Africa – absolutely with no regard to natural or native boundaries. This is something important enough to stop and look at real quick – just so we don’t underestimate what a truly global issue this is. This map of Africa is about 30 years too late but this is the same basic idea – it was just a free-for-all land grab with absolutely no consideration towards the native population. This may ring some bells of similarity in America. There was serious cultural damage done from this white European display of prideful ignorance. I’m not pointing any fingers as all the culprits and initial victims are long dead and anyone who still is living in those days is clinging to a dying past. There can be some direct blame laid, as those who initiated the use of such brutal force were directly involved – and in 1885 one of the largest private properties known to man was acquired – and it happens to be the single blue area in the African map – right in the center.

The King

King Leopold the jerkThere once was a King of a small European country who had a terrible problem. As a good King should he wanted his country great, and he racked his brains night and day trying to come up with a way to make his country great. And finally his eureka-moment came and an epiphany had been realized. He thought about it – where could he get more stuff for his country without bothering his immediate neighbors? And then it dawned on him – Colonies! The idea probably made his heart flutter near the ceiling. It made perfect sense – the King probably hit his palm to his forehead asking why he didn’t think of it sooner but there was still another problem that he didn’t anticipate. When he proposed his idea to Congress and his subjects there was virtually no interest. You see – this small European Country was Belgium and the King was none-other than King Leopold II. The people and government of Belgium wanted nothing to do with colonies in an age where democracy was beginning to flourish and the importance of the King was slowly eroding away. But King Leopold II was not deterred, he made a private company, had the area around the Congo River surveyed, and in 1885 all the other greedy countries recognized the Congo Free State as owned by only King Leopold II and nobody else – it is why the Congo is split in half at the river, he ‘gave‘ the northern half to the French for sovereignty of the much larger south. You see – he tricked his own subjects in to thinking he was just going to survey the land when in reality he was simply trying to grab an entire country as his sole property – and he succeeded with bribes.

As a private block of land 1/4 the size of the United States the King went straight away to using it to create a profit. Seeing as no Europeans were living in the Congo Free State King Leopold II absentmindedly declared the entire land as “vacant.” And thus the arduous anguish-ridden history of the people of the Congo began. The cruelty of the first European colonists in the Congo Free State is noteworthy. King Leopold II was serious about making sure the “vacant” land turned him a profit – in any form necessary. If natives were encountered it was essential to use them for forced labor – slavery. Ivory which cost innocent animal life and rubber which was collected via slavery were the two main exports of King Leopold’s II new land. King Leopold II even allowed rival slave traders run parts of the Congo Free State.

Back in Belgium the King kept a tight lid on things – but not tight enough. His people were mad at the debt he had created by investing so deeply into this African colony he tricked everyone about acquiring in the first place. On top of that rumors were being spread about the brutal rule he had over the colony. After all – very few people who went there rarely came back, most were not allowed to leave the country. But politics crept up on Leopold and he was forced to let an independent group assess how he ran the country. And in 1908 there was international outrage towards the King and his forced labor – even the United States condemned it- slavery was apparently last century news (at this point it was only acceptable to restrict equal rights). Thusly the Western World virtually appointed the country of Belgium the new ruler of the Congo Free State to tone down the massive human rights abuses – and thus the Belgian Congo was born (which is why that is the name on the above map).

The Belgian people were not happy with their King during his reign and in 1902 he was almost assassinated. When he died in 1909 he was booed during his burial parade. I do not know the extent of the cruelty the King was responsible for and I don’t think anybody will ever know for sure (one of those eerie sayings people always say when countless have been murdered). I’ve read figures as high as 10 million innocent lives were taken under the brutal dictatorship that surpassed the brutality that even “regular colonies” employed. In 2005 a statue of King Leopold II was erected in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the capital of Kinshasa (formerly Leopoldville) for historical purposes, by the time the sun rose the next morning it had been removed.

For more information on Leopold’s rule check out the book Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad as this seems to be the authority everybody points to (though fiction the book is largely based on what the author saw while in the Congo). But believe it or not King Leopold II and his creation of the Congo Free State is only the background of the tale I want to tell.

Katanga moneyKatanga

I find it hard to convey the complexity surrounding the Congo’s situation without mentioning the province of Katanga. During Leopold’s rule they were a modern African Kingdom that held their own against both Leopold’s men to the north as well as the encroaching British from the south. A Kingdom had arisen around the same time as Leopold’s men were entering the Congo from the West. It was known as the Yeke Kingdom and its leader was known as Msiri. Msiri was not a particularly benevolent leader but I can’t help but be impressed with the native attempt at demanding independence in a way that was every bit as economically brutal as Leopold. Being at the heart of the African continent they were an ideal trading post which produced slaves and copper. Their regional influence grew so large that the Kingdom quickly shared a sense of independence from the European encroachers. Despite the sense of unity Leopold’s men killed Msiri and took Katanga for their own profit – classic Leopold style. However this Kingdom seemed to have infused the area with a sense of brutal independence that ran through the decades.

Independence and the Rise and Fall of Patrice Lumumba

The Belgian Congo, ruled by the country of Belgium, did not carry on the brutal rule of their King but instead the more socially acceptable forms of discrimination rife with colonies those days. Katanga proved to be a mineral rich area of the Congo and the Belgian’s profited nicely from Leopold’s greed. While primary schools apparently were built in abundance a stark absence of secondary or higher education was found. And still, even though no longer run by Leopold, the country kept its borders as closed as possible to retain ignorance and protect from independent influence. The Africans were encouraged to get service jobs they weren’t allowed to have the higher paying jobs that would support a country. All of this kept the unwanted, bastardized, adopted Congo child in a non-threatening and profit-producing state (much like todays genetically modified pigs – helpless independently, bountiful for the ones who made it that way).

But by the time the late 1950’s occurred the natives of the Congo became increasingly more demanding about Independence as word leaked of other African countries becoming independent. The logistics of Independence had become nightmarishly large in size. The complete lack of higher education would leave a country helpless to care for themselves in a modern world now broadcasting information across oceans and flying fighter jets. Yet the native Congolese were becoming violent and the Belgian government had lost almost all favor – faced with no other option in January of 1960 Belgium promised independence in June of the same year. The total number of university graduates was 30, only 136 completed secondary education, and the country only had 600 priests to help tend to the countries needs – no doctors, no secondary school teachers, no army officers. With Congo’s native culture ravaged by Belgium and its leaders during the last 70+ years of occupation and forced to live under “civilized” order the Congolese sat at the eve of their Independence in complete ignorance on what it takes to run a “civilized” nation. The only history they had really known of a “civilized” nation was that of a very pushy and unpleasant country – which they were about to get rid of (or so they thought – there is little civilized action in a civilized world).

Five days before independence a non-executive president and Prime Minister were elected – Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Patrice Lumumba respectively. Both were leaders in the Congolese demand for independence. While the new King of Belgium – King Baudouin – came expecting to hear praise for his great Uncle – King Leopold II – he was greeted by Patrice Lumumbaa blasé president and a vehement prime minister. Lumumba chose his words with justifiable passion:

“We have known sarcasm and insults, endured blows morning, noon and night because we were ‘niggers’… We have seen our lands despoiled under the terms of what was supposedly the law of the land but which only recognised the right of the strongest. We have seen that this law was quite different for a white than for a black: accommodating for the former, cruel and inhuman for the latter. We have seen the terrible suffering of those banished to remote regions because of their political opinions or religious beliefs; exiled within their own country, their fate was truly worse than death itself… And finally, who can forget the volleys of gunfire in which so many of our brothers perished, the cells where the authorities threw those who would not submit to a rule where justice meant oppression and exploitation”

Each word was undoubtedly justifiable and thus the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was born, independent from imperial rule, and alienated by their lofty oppressors. Immediately there were problems. The army started to get vocal about their low wages and began to riot, Lumumba immediately blamed the Belgian’s accusing them of inciting rebellion doing little to address the actual problem at hand. While the Belgian’s did keep the overhead jobs from the Congolese it was Lumumba himself who demanded the 6th month plan to independence instead of the Belgian’s proposed 4 year plan. Mutiny quickly became rampant and whites were beaten, raped, and insulted. A mass exodus of the white population quickly fled in the thousands and many of the Congolese feasted on their first taste of lustful bigotry and oppression – it was their turn to inflict the harm on the whites. During this time many of the Congolese quickly converted to everything they’ve ever hated about the Belgian rule. Of course the Belgian’s have left no other model of rule around leaving disaster inevitable.

As Lumumba rushed about his new duties taking care of this national crisis while refusing any aid from the Belgians, a sly politician named Moise Tshombe declared the mineral rich Katanga (remember Katanga?) an independent state, adding one more thing for Lumumba to handle. Katanga quickly became a unified unit at the earliest of the DRC’s independence. Lumumba, having nowhere to turn, looked towards the United Nations (UN) to help and within days foreign troops were maintaining public safety and civilian task forces were created to run public services. Of course at this point Belgian troops had also intervened to ensure the safety of their ex-patriots and this in no way pleased Lumumba.

Lumumba insisted that the UN expel the Belgian troops and the UN refused to intervene figuring the Congo needed all the help it could get. Infuriated Lumumba demanded the UN remove Belgian troops or he would invite the Soviet’s to intervene. It’s 1960. Lumumba happened to press the one button that would possibly get the United States even marginally interested in a remote African backwater – they called Commie! And the United States saw this as a very serious threat because a year previously a revolution had just taken place off the tip of Florida and a young Fidel Castro began his rule of the small country of Cuba. The DRC could be another country that could fall to the dreaded rule of communism and so Lumumba was rushed to Washington where the CIA attempted to persuade him not to make such a rash decision. By August the United States was calling Lumumba “a Castro or worse,” “irrational,” a “mad dog” and “psychotic.” The UN called Lumumba crazy, threatening, demanding, irrational and claimed he acted like a child. Within two months of independence the United States and UN were completely fed up with Lumumba’s rule and seemed more than happy to let the communists deal with him.

In fact we get a rare glimpse into how powerful politics really can get. President Eisenhower authorized the CIA to “eliminate” Lumumba. I’m not joking. “There was a stunned silence for about 15 seconds and the meeting continued,” Johnson recalled. Belgian leaders rife with embarrassment came to similar conclusions: “The main aim to pursue in the interests of the Congo, Katanga, and Belgium, is clearly Lumumba’s elimination definitive.” With the Western World attempting to manipulate the potentially malignant Soviet country and Katanga attempting to secede using military might and an army that has mutinied Lumumba’s options were thin but he continued to attempt to manage the country showing no signs of letting go. To add to Lumumba’s poor image a recent military expedition to Kasai ended with hundreds of Baluba tribesmen murdered and 250,000 displaced refugees. UN Soldiers looked on with strict orders not to use weapons aside for self defense.

Young MobutuWhat about Kasa-Vubu – the non-executive President? What was he doing during all this time? Kasa-Vubu had quickly grown accustomed and comfortable with his new life of luxury and was not in any hurry to stir any political trouble. But when approached by the U.S., the Belgians, and fellow Congolese Kasa-Vubu was virtually forced to act – but not before Lumumba did – and he quickly accused Kasa-Vubu of treason and dismissed him as president.

Lumumba’s end came from an unlikely source – from a trusted personal aide that Lumumba promoted to army commander – his name was Joseph Mobutu (left). Supported by the CIA, UN, and many frustrated Congolese citizens the 29 year old Joseph Mobutu declared that he was neutralizing all politicians and assuming power until the end of the year. The 35 year old Lumumba quickly disappeared in to hiding.

On December 1st, 1960- 6 months after he became the first acting Prime Minister of the DRC- Lumumba was found crouching in the back of a pickup and arrested. After he was thoroughly beaten he was sent straight to Leopoldville (the capital later renamed Kinshasa) where Joseph Mobutu ruled with UN and U.S. support. And in that tropical December of 1960 along the muddy banks of the Congo River somewhere in Leopoldville Patrice Lumumba lay at the mercy of Joseph Mobutu. A former minister claimed to have seen Mobutu spit in Lumumba’s face and declare: “Well! You swore to have my skin, now it is I who have yours.”

The Death of Patrice Lumumba

You did know he was going to die, didn’t you? It’s common knowledge to not expect a happy ending in Africa and Lumumba’s death, unfortunately, is not exceptional compared to the ends of many African’s that dare to toil in African politics. In fact it might not even be worth talking about if it wasn’t so scandalous and if the resulting aftermath wasn’t so powerful –

Earlier I spoke of Lumumba killing hundreds of Baluba tribesmen as well as displacing 250,000 refugees. Well after a month of being detained it was decided that Lumumba and two of his colleagues be transported to a different city – Elizabethville. The guards picked for this transportation were Baluba – Baluba that were ready for revenge. The entire 6 hour flight was filled with unimaginable beatings and when the plane landed and the torture should have ended (should it have started?) there were Katangese soldiers and Belgian officers waiting for him. They took up the beatings where the Baluba soldiers left off and transported them to an empty house. You see – Elizabethville is located deep in the Southern Congo – in Katanga (remember Katanga?). Tshombe, the man who declared independence while Lumumba was in charge, still kept Katanga in an autonomous rule from the rest of the Congo and was supported by the Belgians. Tshombe and Belgian police commissioner Frans Verscheure were in charge of the detention of Lumumba and his colleagues and spent the afternoon taunting and beating Lumumba further.

Tshombe and Verscheure eventually got tired of torturing Lumumba and went home to get drunk. Tshombe’s butler noticed that his employer came home that evening covered in blood. By 10 P.M. many were drunk enough to have murder on there minds. Lumumba and his colleagues were never to see another sunrise – and they probably didn’t want to. Hauled 30 miles out of town the three men were ripped out of the pickup truck to face open graves in front of them.

Last pictures of Lumumba before he was dragged off and murdered“You’re going to kill us, aren’t you?” Lumumba asked.

“Yes,” Verscheure replied. And that night – January 17, 1961 – a group of drunken Katangese soldiers and Belgian officers murdered 3 men (Lumumba being the last) who spent the day being tortured. Then they were buried. As sobriety started to settle in panic began to engulf the group and cover stories started to be spun. It was the Belgians that worried particularly as what had just occurred would be found entirely unacceptable to the Western culture in which they so belonged. A political prisoner was in their hands the previous day and now they had no way of accounting for him. The following night after the diabolical deed had occurred some Belgians dug the cadavers back up, took them 120 miles away, hacked them up, and dissolved them in a vat of sulphuric acid. Then their bones were ground up and scattered on the return trip to Elizabethville so as to lose all connections with their cold blooded murder.

Nevertheless, this event was witnessed by too many people and the secret was not kept. The murder of Patrice Lumumba made him into one of the most famous political martyrs of modern times. The Congolese were vehement towards the Belgian’s for continuing to meddle with their independence and murdering their first leader. In addition this news was one of the few maniacal secrets the Congo had released to the world and staged protests occurred across the globe in over 30 cities. The support behind Lumumba came from the concept that he was just a poor guy trying to free his country from colonialism and for that simple reason – murdered – and the country that just “gave” them independence was responsible. Belgium was globally chastised – which I imagine, in some way, is exactly what Lumumba would want his death to do – hurt the image of those who had put him and his people in such a fetal state. Now we know Lumumba could not blame all of the misfortunes on Belgium, for he definitely created his fair share of oppression and impossible demands… but I can’t help but wonder – with the way Belgium treated the Congolese, no matter how the transition phase occurred (6 months OR 4 years), and no matter WHO was put in position of power – whether the Democratic Republic of the Congo was just set up to fail.

Civil Strife

Congo CrisisMobutu assumed power of Leopoldville with the avid support of the U.S. and UN but was not the favored leader in the country. The Soviet Union was aiding a Northeastern uprising (red), Tshombe still was attempting succession of Katanga in the Southeast aided by the Belgians still (green), and in the Southwest diamonds had been found in the area of Kasai and the locals began to guard the area from the rest of the country – the Belgians also meddled here (blue). Mobutu, in short, was only in charge of the Western portion of the country and the capital (yellow). Most of the rest of the country started to divide itself.

By 1964 Katanga had failed to become an independent state and Tshombe became acting Prime Minister of the entire DRC. That same year a revolt occurred in the Eastern (red) portion of the map and Tshombe had to recover half the land of the country he had previously tried to secede from. Mass executions began of the Congolese people who were deemed “intellectuals” or “counter-revolutionaries.” It was this section of the country that supported Lumumba the strongest and they began executing the “counter-revolutionaries” at the foot of Lumumba statues. The United States and Belgium were in panic, if the revolution succeeded communist Lumumba supporters would cover the country leaving only what is vile and distrustful to U.S. and Belgian interest. The two countries supplied the Western half of the country with combat aircrafts, transport planes, counter-insurgency experts and technicians. The DRC was undoubtedly a pawn in the global chess game of Democracy vs. Socialism (leaving only despotism in the wake). More confusion, killing, torture, and power struggles occurred in the decimated country until the Eastern Soviet rebellion was managable. All in all an estimated one million people had died during the rebellion.

By 1965 Mobutu had officially declared himself president (a popular thing military heads were doing all over Africa at this time). Personally I don’t understand how any man could take the position Mobutu did but he seemed to become severely hardened after the chaos of the previous 5 years. Dissidents were quickly eliminated. Mobutu instilled public hangings and brutal treatment of those who did not completely support him which quickly stabilized the country. One must truly look at the situation and legitimately ask whether if Mobutu did not take these actions if another million would’ve died. Of course it’s rhetorical as we’ll never know, but what we do know is a little more on how the United States played a role in this very real and nightmarish mess:

The United States and its Relationship with the Congo

“General, if it hadn’t been for you the whole thing would have collapsed and the Communists would have taken over,” President Kennedy was quoted as saying to Mobutu in 1963 about his initial assertion of power.

“I do what I am able to do,” Mobutu responded while asking for military equipment, training, and parachute training for himself. The President granted his request and gave him a command aircraft for his personal use and a permanent US Air Force crew to go with it to boot. Also he was kept on the CIA payroll and was paraded around as an exotic and powerful leader by those in the United States government.

In 1970 Nixon praised Mobutu and told him “there are things we can learn from you.” On top of that Nixon pushed for more investment in the country. By 1974 the U.S. and Europe had over $2 billion (2,000,000,000) invested in the country celebrating Mobutu – a dictator the likes of which the world has only rarely seen – as the appropriate leader to manage the country of their “investment.”

Mobutu and NixonI hate to bring U.S. involvement in on the history of an African country but it is obvious from the above facts that the United States government were far more involved with the politics of the DRC than they probably should have been or care to openly admit. The people of the United States were ignorantly unaware that the leader of a remote African country was zipping around in a tax-paid jet with a tax-paid crew and a tax-paid staff and was being injected with tax-paid cash. Morally the concept of a leader of a country being on another country’s payroll is just another Westernized form of stunting a culture and country of people. While the United States certainly did not acknowledge the intricate details of the situation in the Congo they blanketly placed them in a category of “Potential Soviet ally” and insisted on menacing in the countries very internal and bloody business. Of course the Soviets were no better grubbying their fingers in the Congo pot as well aiding the stir of an uprise that cost one million lives.

The United States brought shame upon themselves as a country becoming so worked up at Lumumba calling for Soviet help. If you remember country’s total graduates of both higher education and secondary education totaled less than 200 in 1960. What honest threat would a jungle nation with a handful of people educated on the “civilized” world that was ripe for civil war cause if they had become communist? Logic says none at all. And if democracy was really their goal why did they support a military dictator which was neither socialist nor democratic? He was despotic!

In an age where the prevailing argument of American policy is “We were noble enough to free the Iraqi people from a terrible dictator,” it goes completely ignored that the United States had supported harsh military dictators for decades (including Saddam originally). As I argued in my entry on The Bush Administration with another harsh military dictator – Samuel Doe – the United States has never been interested in “freeing people” or “democracy” so much as it has been interested in strict obedience. And Mobutu provided just that.

Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga

Just as we’ll never know what Michael Jackson would be like without gross amounts of fame we will never know what Joseph Mobutu would’ve been like without gross amounts of power. As the economy started to tentatively increase in the 1970’s Mobutu started to let his ego expand. After all the previous ruler couldn’t even rule for 6 months and he had ruled it for almost a decade with progress. He often began to be seen wearing a leopard-skin hat. On top of that he had decided to change his name in 1971 from Joseph Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (the title of this section) which meant something along the lines of “the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest leaving fire in his wake.” Not exactly modest nor really encouraging. It was also during this time Leopoldville (the capital) became Kinshasa, Elisabethville (where Lumumba met his torturous end) Lubumbashi, and Stanleyville (where the 1964 rebel revolt took place) became Kisangani. Lastly Mobutu decided that the name Democratic Republic of the Congo was outdated and changed the name to Zaire. Today many of your decade-old maps still have the Democratic Republic of the Congo labeled as Zaire as it continued to be named such until 1997.

Another dicatatorial action Mobutu took was creating a single party to eliminate political opposition. In case you were ever interested in what the trademarked official way of removing all political rights from the masses – it is the creation of a single party. This way things are simple – they become your way… or the rape, torture, abusive, deprivation, prison way. And the opposition party is usually preoccupied with one of the listed things if you know what I’m saying. So he started a single party and, of course, it was the duty of the party to follow, as he deemed it, “Mobutuism.” The concept behind it was basically that the belief of sharing power is absurd and having only one leader is the most important thing – and what that leader says goes or else punishment will ensue. Mobutu had become as oppressive as the Beglian colony was by taking on this paternal position for his people.

Actual Zairian money - seriously.Also this is known as something – Mobutu was creating a cult of personality. The name changes to himself and the country, the creation of a single party, naming things after himself – all of these things are signs of when your ego can no longer bathe in the Pacific Ocean anymore. From this point on nobody was allowed to have a European name in the country and priests baptizing anyone with a European name will receive a 5 year jail sentence. European suits were banned and fawning over the “Saviour of the People” (his title, not mine) was encouraged. In fact songs and dances were constantly being put on for him. Places where he lived and grew up became national pilgrimage places or places of “high meditation.” His staff began calling him a prophet. A former prime minister – Nguzu Karl-i-Bond – later wrote in his memoirs the following about Mobutu:

“Nothing is possible in Zaire without Mobutu. He created Zaire. He fathered the Zairian people. He grew the trees and the plants. He brings rain and good weather. You don’t go to the toilet without the authorisation of Le Guide. Zairians would be nothing without him. Mobutu has obligations to nobody, but everybody has obligation to him. As he said to me on August 13, 1977, in front of three witnesses: ‘Nguz’, there’s nothing I have to do for you; on the contrary, I have made you whatever you are.'”

And the American government still supported him.

Having satiated himself with fame Mobutu turned his head toward fortune to devour. With the simple ease of just vocalizing it Mobutu seized a massive amount of foreign businesses. In a simple decree he acquired 2,000 businesses and redistributed them to friends and family. Mobutu himself was the boss of plantation conglomerate with over 25,000 employees. Mobutu virtually owned the country – not dissimilar to his Belgian predecessor. During the 1970’s it was estimated that one-third of total national revenues was in one way or another at his disposal. Mobutu immersed himself in all aspects of business in his country bloating himself with wealth while his country slowly slipped back in decline. Whether it was copper, cobalt, diamonds, banking, stocks, business ownership, and surely much more Mobutu siphoned the profit guiltlessly for his arbitrary whims. In the 1980’s the average individual on the Forbes 500 list made about $400 million a year. Mobutu was estimated to be making $5 billion making him one of the richest men in the world at the time.

And the American government still supported him.

The consequence? National disaster. Mobutu could not handle all of the capital he had acquired making himself rich making Zaire’s budding economy begin to slowly rot. As poverty spread from the mismanaged businesses greed enveloped anyone with any power. Teachers and hospital staff went unpaid for months. It was Mobutu who helped coin a new form of government in which Zaire was a leading example – the term was a kleptocracy – klepto commonly know as someone who commonly steals – so a kleptocracy is a form of government that commonly steals. People with all levels of power took more than their fair share leaving the masses with little else but poverty. It came to a point where nothing could be accomplished without a bribe. It is at this time that we can see the Congolese people have become indistinguishable with their oppressors as corruption permeated the country turning neighbor on neighbor for a petty level of power.

“If you steal, do not steal too much at a time. You may be arrested, Yibana mayele – Steal cleverly, little by little.”

This is a documented quote directly from Mobutu himself. While corruption was on the minds of the leaders the country was impoverished. Medical staff, teachers, and other workers stopped working because they were receiving no wages. Those who did receive wages were getting little more than 10% of their value in 1960 (their independence). Hunger, disease, and malnutrition were the product of the greed. Mobutu modeled the practice of many ruthless African dictators. The first step is to gorge on as much profit from your country in any way you please. The second step is to invite foreign investors to gorge on the money they bring as well. The third step is to comply with foreign inquiry to missing funds until they try to get you to stop gorging, then ignore them and wait to see what they do. And this is exactly what Mobutu did, threatening the lives of those who came to his country to monitor fair business practices. Mobutu constantly was shifting his friends and enemies to make sure nobody ever got too close.

BFFsAnd the American government still supported him.

I stress this so many times because this is a clear cut case where the United State blatantly and flagrantly ignored the concept of democracy and freedom for the sake of convenience. The United States only saw the Congo one-dimensionally. The Congo was a block of land in Africa that was not allowed to supply its wealth to the Soviet Union – and that’s it. If the nation dove in to despotism, debt, greed, despair, torture, wars, and suffering that was acceptable so long as they were not supplying their wealth to the Soviet Union. In this regard the political term for him was a “friendly tyrant.” In case that doesn’t make sense I’ll gladly break it down for you. Mobutu is still a tyrant and does all the terrible, horrible, awful things a tyrant does to his own people – however – he is friendly towards us, which makes us feel safe, so we give him money for doing that to keep him that way. That is what the term “friendly tyrant” means. How much money did the United States give to Mobutu? Between 1965 and 1988 the United States gave Mobutu $860 million of taxpayer money. Mobutu maintained friendship with the United States administration after administration. Into the Reagan and Bush Administration Mobutu was still solidly not helping the Soviet Union in a Cold War gone lukewarm. The suffering was obvious, the only unity maintained was through Mobutu’s iron fist of greed, and keeping him in power curdled the tense situations as they began to root.

I bring all this up to ask the philosophical question – is it right for one nation-state to put a leader of another nation-state on their payroll? Does this not undermine the very responsibility of a leader? Where is this leader’s loyalty when he is being paid by another country? Who could possibly argue that a leader can stay loyal to his country while on the payroll of another? The United States and the Soviet Union created so much global tension out of an ego issue it reverberated negatively around the world – the Congo being one of the worst affected. Taxpayer money went for decades to a man whose only job was to suppress, and he was praised for it:

“I have come to appreciate the dynamism that is so characteristic of Zaire and Zairians and to respect your dedication to fairness and reason. I have come to admire, Mr. President, your personal courage and leadership in Africa.”

“Zaire is among America’s oldest friends, and its president – President Mobutu – one of our most valued friends. And we are proud and very, very pleased to have you with us today.”

Both of the above are direct quotes from President George Bush I (There is something eerily familiar about having to use Roman Numerals for identification of a specific leader and its correlation with oppression). The history of the United States and Mobutu is simply unacceptable behavior if it were happening in America, and there is absolutely no legitimate reason (so this excludes discrimination and hate-mongering) why this should be happening because of Americans elsewhere. It would be as if one high school superintendent paid off another high school superintendent to make all their students and staff submissive to him, which may include robbing them, not paying them, refusing them any decent medical attention, refusing to have any autonomy whatsoever… all so the original superintendent can feel like he’s doing a good job eliminating potential (not actual even yet!) competition. From Dwight Eisenhower to George Bush I all the presidents supported Mobutu and supplied him with cash to continue his plundering and oppression – it was little other than that by any standards at all – and Bush says those complete false positive things about him. The feeling was mutual however with Mobutu sharing positive feelings on George Bush I himself:

“As regards George Bush I’ve met him thirteen times. We know each other from way back. He was in charge of the CIA and knew Zaire’s problems backwards. He received me at his home in Maine with his mother, wife, and children and grandchildren. I met him again recently at the funeral of Emperor Hirohito. He is an intelligent, open and sensitive man, with strong convictions.”

I find these quotes so essential because they are documented facts. There was absolute friendship between a dictator who many would largely agree was worse than Saddam Hussein, yet even at this time Bush was fighting that very man for being a ruthless dictator. The hypocrisy is blatant and the fact that this is not acknowledged as a historical lesson goes to show that there is a strong level of national oppression within the United States let alone what type of oppression the government encourages outside of the country.

When the Soviet Union fell there was little reason to keep Mobutu on the United States payroll and his reputation was catching up with him. The United States began to distance herself from Mobutu until eventually the government denied Mobutu a visa into the United States. No longer was he welcome less than a decade after the breakup, one of the United States “oldest friends,” perhaps Bush meant “oldest tools.” In fact – the only one to speak up for Mobutu anymore in America happened to be Pat Robertson, the famous televangelist (of all people), giving an argument for Mobutu to visit the United States. Though Pat Robertson has done a good job covering his tracks there have been quite a few accounts claiming that Mobutu allowed him to mine diamonds in his country, which is probably the reason for their forged relationship. Robertson seems a man willing to profit from anything – religion to an oppressed nation – regardless of moral character.

France and the Rwandan Genocide

The Congo and RwandaIn a small country a fraction of the size of Zaire along its exotic Eastern border a conflict was occurring. A group known as the Tutsi were about to be murdered in such large amounts the word genocide had to be pulled out of the closet before anything was seriously done about it. The Tutsi, though a minority group, tended to be wealthy and hold positions of power. The Tutsis had an aristocracy and enjoyed a higher style of living than their Hutu counterparts. The Hutu were the majority in this country known as Rwanda and some Hutus felt indignant over this Tutsi rule. Rwanda and Burundi have had ethnic tensions between the Hutu and the Tutsi stemming back to the 1960s. Political leaders have been assassinated, executed, and murdered by Hutu and Tutsi alike. The Tutsi people were exiled for over 30 years creating one of the largest refugee communities in Africa. The Tutsis who remained in Rwanda (while the exiles planned for their return) were forced to carry an ethnicity card, given quotas determined by the Hutu government, Tutsi women were not allowed to be married to Hutu men, and the leader of it all – Juvenal Habyarimana – kept a photograph of a Tutsi hut in flames in his presidential mansion.

But now it is the early 1990’s and the Tutsi had earned their way back in to Rwanda but not without continued ethnic tension. Habyarimana was not willing to share the power with the returning Tutsi and began to stir up dehumanizing hate in which only the most desperate and lowly of people do. Hutu supremacists began organizing death squads and murdering the Tutsi in cold blood.

As all this was going on next door Mobutu was immersed in troubles of his own. After 30 years of rule Mobutu had little to show for it. Since 1988 the economy had shrunk by 40% and his money was worthless. Per capital gross domestic product in 1993 was $117, about 65% lower than in 1958 – before independence. Mobutu’s old stealing grounds were in decline and people across the world had begun to wise up to Mobutu’s destructive, deceitful, ignorant ways. Copper, cobalt, diamonds and gold all were mismanaged, not being produced, or being smuggled. Mobutu had reaped what he had sewn. Distrust permeated through every level of government and when cohesion looked possible Mobutu incited ethnic tensions just like his neighbor, Habyarimana, to the East. But the worst of it all was that he had virtually no foreign friends that could provide him with his insatiable desire for wealth and global leverage. The United States wouldn’t talk to him anymore, the World Bank stopped funding him as they saw $9 billion sink into the murky depths of the Congo never to reappear, it really looked as if it were only a matter of time before Mobutu met the fate of his predecessor – Lumumba.

Francophone AfricaEnter France. First it was Belgium who could not help but get their fingers dirty in Africa, followed by the Americans, and now the French saw the Congo as a part of their imperialist vision. If one country asserted more dominance on the continent of Africa than any others – it would be France. France was very diligent in not only maintaining but spreading the Francophone culture. To France Africa was divided into two sections – Francophone Africa (map on left) – and then everybody else. France didn’t really regard Africa as a totally separate culture or continent from their own – they regarded Africa, literally, as their own backyard. To them defending Francophone Africa was defending France – it was defending France’s backyard. And what was France defending Francophone Africa from? Why Anglophone Africa of course – the British influence could not encroach.

Treating a continent of people like a backyard once again shows the immaturity Africans had to deal with when encountering their European counterparts. Everything from the French language to French influence were of the highest priority in Francophone Africa- everything else coming second – and I mean everything. Jaques Foccart, the leader authority of French policy on Africa for 40 years and met Mobutu personally, had explained France’s interest on the topic of Zaire:

“[Zaire] is the largest country on francophone Africa. It has considerable natural resources. It has the means of being a regional power. The long-term interest of France and its African allies is evident.”

No longer was Zaire considered a country with desperate people and a flat-lined economy in dire need of compassion and stability with a ruthless leader. It was viewed simply as a potential area of profit and if France continued to support its leadership – whoever it was – they can benefit from any economic or regional power gained from it. However unfortunate for the French what was brewing in the region was not potential profit but genocide. In fact France supplied Habyarimana with troops which he used to repress his opponents (Mobutu also had supplied Habyarimana in the past with troops and weapons). Rwanda was also part of the precious francophone empire and acknowledging the genocide that Rwandan Hutus were facilitating would not look good for France. But the crisis continued to grow, Tutsis continued to be slaughtered and the West, especially France, was slow to react. When Habyarimana was assassinated in April of 1994 the genocide took full effect.

Rwandan refugee camp in ZaireFor Mobutu though he had found a new purpose – a new way to manipulate power again. The Rwandan crisis was getting out of hand and Mobutu gladly opened the border to his country for refugees to come spilling in. However, this time, the refugees were not Tutsi – they were Hutu. The whole reason the crisis began in Rwanda was because Tutsis were demanding to return to the government that exiled them 30 years prior. The Hutu elite used dehumanization, discrimination, and then outright murder to refuse the Tutsi entrance back in to their original country of residence. So while the Tutsi continued to push southward militarily – triumphantly taking back the country in which they originally belonged – while Hutus cowardly murdered civilian Tutsis and fled the country claiming Tutsi created genocide- not the actual Hutu created genocide that was occurring.

As the Hutus poured in to all of Rwanda’s bordering nations international outcry reached a new level. Images of Hutus exiling themselves from the country turned in to the images of the holocaust. Indeed hidden within this traveling band of refugees were the actual people directly responsible for the blood-lust atrocities. As CNN streamed the images of the Hutu refugees the hearts of people across the world went out to them even though some were facilitating the genocide.

When Belgium wanted to send in troops to stabilize the situation it was France who refused it. When a regional meeting set up to discuss Rwanda was going to be in “anglophone” Tanzania both Mobutu and France blocked the move. Meanwhile innocent civilians were being murdered and raped in the street. Both Mobutu and France held out their power in an orgy of greed for power and wealth. It was from the Hutu refugee camps inside Zaire that facilitators of the genocide safely plotted their next blood-spilling scheme.

The Congolese Wars

With all the political greed in the region the locals were getting overwhelmed with the refugees and ethnic tensions began to flare between the locals and the refugees. Due to Mobutu helping out the Hutu genocidaires the new Tutsi-instated government decided to attack the genocidaires and march all the way west to the capital of Zaire – Kinshasa – and remove Mobutu from power. At this time in 1996 Mobutu was in ill health, had no money, and could not afford a military to defend himself. The rebellion started in the Second Congolese War linesEast at the Rwandan border and then spread West slowly. Mobutu watched as his country began to dissolve in front of hi eyes. Province after province joined in on the rebellion with Mobutu virtually powerless to stop it – even Katanga joined in. This was known as the First Congolese War.

The last time the East Congo started rebelling it was 1965 and the United States was supplying Mobutu with all he needed to suppress the uprising. In fact, I did not mention this earlier, Fidel Castro and Cuba even got involved. Having personal vendettas against American imperialism in Cuba, Castro sent Che Guevara to the Eastern Congo to meet a man named Laurent-Désiré Kabila who claimed he had an army to Che to train. Che was a professional guerrilla soldier ready to train an uprising for the good of the people. Che was disgusted to meet an unmotivated army with an unmotivated leader that demanded money and put in little effort. The revolution Che had planned was a disaster and Che headed straight back to Cuba. About 30 years later it was again, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who the Tutsis trusted to take over the Congo. It was this man, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who Che said on his return to Cuba:

“He let the days pass without concerning himself with anything other than political squabbles, and all the signs are that he is too addicted to drink and women”

Che also claimed Kabila lacked any “revolutionary seriousness. So what a surprise it might have been to Che (had he not been murdered himself later on in life) to see that it was indeed Kabila (with major help from Tutsi Rwanda) that ran Mobutu out of the country. Mobutu escaped with little more than his frail life. After 32 years of playing ruthless dictator of possibly the most saddest country on Earth Mobutu fled on a plane that being riddled with bullets – never to Current Congo - Joseph Kabilareturn. As the remainder of Mobutu’s army made it across the Congo River to Congo-Brazzaville in 1997 the leader of the months-long assault, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, assumed leadership and returned the name back to the original (though confusing) name of independence: the Democratic Republic of Congo.

If genocide and a war wasn’t enough to deal with in a single decade a second war was quickly ready to break out. The Second Congolese War has been the largest conflict since World War II and also Africa’s largest war involving 8 nations. Though Kabila could have never taken over Kinshasa without the help of the new Tutsi Rwandan government Kabila was short in patience when Rwanda tried to control the Congo. Kabila made sure to thank them and then curtly made them leave. Shortly thereafter fighting flared up and the Rwandan and Ugandan government started to feed off the Northeast parts of the Congo plundering their wealth. Other nations got involved on both sides and things did not significantly change until 2001 when Kabila was assassinated. Immediately his son – Joseph Kabila was instated. By 2003 Uganda and Rwanda withdrew and the war was officially over.

Of course Rwanda is still bitter and continues to support rebel action within the borders of the Congo. And these shallow actions continue to perpetuate the corrosive and rotting culture of violence the citizens of the Congolese have been forced to endure since its inception and almost completely due to international stimulation. Joseph Kabila’s leadership is still in its infancy. Certainly his task is daunting and unlike his father or any of his predecessors Joseph Kabila is described as a shy man. Perhaps a leader without an ego can help unite the country and it is true that he is attempting peace talks with the Rwandan Tutsi rebels. Unfortunately it was only August 2007 when rebel and government forces fought in the province of Kivu displacing almost a million people. Is it possible that Joseph Kabila will be able to restore even the most basic safeties to the country without keeping the citizens in a fetal state? I certainly don’t know but I hope the best of intentions and the wisest of choices are guiding him.

Conclusion

So why did I bring up this long disastrous history of a nation nobody cares about unless they live in it? For a few reasons:

  1. Current CongoSome people attribute Africa’s problems to race. Many people seriously believe that skin color affects intelligence even in the slightest. I found the history of the Congo to be typical to the history of many African colonial nations. Unprepared for independence and mettlesome once independence is achieved African leaders, especially in the case of the Congo, have a hard time not being used like a pawn. In this case we saw the first serious mistreatment of people occur by a white European leader. The history of the Congo is one of the infinite amount of testimonies that no one race is superior to any other.
  2. Many of the people and countries involved with the Congo were bolded upon their first mention in this entry. This is to show how Congo’s strife-ridden history has little to do with internal affairs, though there can be improvement on all ends. The Congo’s story is a testament to the theory that Western powers have direct influence with the most poverty-stricken and strife-ridden areas on the planet.
  3. Specifically the United States befriending this ruthless tyrant, Mobutu, for decades because of his obedience and yet in the same breath call Saddam out as being a ruthless dictator. The United States has a hard time recognizing its mistakes and befriending and paying Mobutu was one of them. The Congo’s story is a testament to the idea that the United States only looks for obedience in a foreign leader as opposed to serving “freedom” to the citizens – and to use that as an excuse to be extra dubious.
  4. To bring attention to a region of the world that is constantly ignored by telling its fascinating, if not gory, history.

Normally I link more references than I did in this entry and a lot you must take my word on to believe. Why should you take my word for it? Because virtually everything I’ve written was paraphrased from the book listed below, The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith which is probably one of the most comprehensive looks at Africa and its history since independence. I strongly urge anyone to read it who wants to know why civilization has not been as kind to all parts of the world as it has been to the West. I would love any more information that is insightful to read on the Congo and I encourage comments on this entry

The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith

The Fate of Africa by Martin Meredith – excellent book.

The Aral Sea

 

 

 

***Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!***

Update August 2009*** Newest Photo of Aral Sea by NASA – The sea has become virtually a desert.

***If you enjoyed this entry, you might also be interested in my entry on the North Pacific Garbage Patch or Our Oceans***

Yes. The Aral Sea. The name either stirs up complex emotions of urgency, desperation, hopelessness, and shame or – nothing at all. For too many people on this planet the latter response is all too common, the Aral Sea might as well be a massive depression on the moon or Mars because they could not locate it on a map of the world despite its huge size and complex issues surrounding it. The story of the Aral Sea is epic. It marks a beginning as well as an end on this planet, it is a watershed. It’s an indicator of the progress of civilization and it is a marker of human power. It is also infinitely buried behind stories of Hollywood drama, iEverything, and sports scandals. It is the story of the Aral Sea that future generations will look back upon and clearly understand where humans went wrong but are left empty with the reasons why. Parched, starving, and disease-ridden they will look back at their species impact on the planet and feel abysmal shame. But for now we live pridefully in ignorance, playing a game of economics, gratuitously feeding the infinite desires in our finite world, laughing or scoffing at those who do not win or play the game.

The Aral Sea from SpaceSo what is the story of the Aral Sea? When I said it was epic, I wasn’t kidding. It’s a story that J. R. R. Tolkien could be impressed with, and it’s real too. It’s a story involving extreme landscapes, powerful leaders, deadly weapons the likes of which this Earth has never seen, projects never before attempted. It is about a struggle for humanity to become God. To the right we see the Aral Sea and its serene beauty from space. The reason why we can see it from space is because the Aral Sea was once the fourth largest lake in the world. That’s right – a lake. A lake that supported all forms of life – including humans – for centuries.

The difference between a lake and a sea is salinity, or salt – the more salinity the more likely the body of water will be called a sea. The Aral Sea lay around some of the flattest and driest land on the planet. An area naturally high in salt the Aral Sea seemed destined to become a salty sea. But over 1,500 miles away in the remote mountains of a forgotten country that is known today as Tajikistan – something was happening that greatly affected the Aral Sea. The Pamir Mountains are some of the highest mountains in the world and still covered in glaciers. Being one of the few unthawed regions left on the planet glacial waters poured in abundance from the mountains dropping to much lower land in the West. Fresh and clean, two of the largest rivers in Central Asia headed West and drained into the Aral Sea. This freshwater runoff allowed the Aral Sea to lose salinity and become the fourth largest lake in the world. Fish prospered, animals prospered, people prospered. Centuries went by and the Aral Sea continued to provide. Strong coastal communities formed where fishing and fresh water dominated the otherwise dry and empty plains. The story of the Aral Sea up to this point could be one akin to a fairy-tale, a massive source of water in one of the driest and hottest places on the planet, a much needed source of fresh water and food, like a mother she nurtured those who trusted her with their lives.

As the centuries passed nothing remarkable changed. The freshwater from the mountains were plentiful as was the diverse ecosystem of the Aral Sea. Even when the Great Russian Famine struck in the early 1920’s the Aral Sea helped provide for a growing nation. The Aral Sea could not have known what the people it had helped try to feed during the famine were going to do to it a couple decades later – nobody could’ve known.

The Karakum and the Nurek:

A Darvasa Gas Crater in the Karakum desertThe Karakum desert is one of the largest deserts in the world and lies mostly Southeast of the Aral Sea. The hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet was 136 degrees Fahrenheit in Libya… the Karakum desert has been known to reach over 122 degrees. Translated the name does little to help the image of the Karakum, or Kara – kum, or “Black Sand.” The desert of black sand sounds like the kind of place where Satan himself seems like he’d reside, and he just might. Overshadowed by the boundless Sahara or the enchanted Gobi little is known or documented about this desert which resides in a country almost entirely sheltered from the outside world (Turkmenistan). Closed to the public the Karakum desert has a mystical allure to it which the Darvasa Gas Craters exacerbate (right).

In 1954 the United States and the Soviet Union were beginning their long descent in to the Cold War. While the United States was condemning the actions of Joseph McCarthy and his red scare, the Soviet Union was very interested in this desert Hell. They had grand schemes to transform a desert, that’s right – a desert, into prosperous agricultural land. The Soviets had visions of cotton and rice supplying their socialist empire from one of the most forsaken deserts on the planet.

The Karakum Canal - good luck finding better pictures of itHow do you pull off making a desert a haven for life? It is a contradiction in terms to have an abundance of life with a desert. Deserts are meant to be void of life, empty of the necessities of survival for most species regardless of what kingdom they belong, yet this was the plan of the Soviets. A year earlier in 1953 one of the most notorious leaders in the recorded history of the planet had finally died due to a stroke – Joseph Stalin. There was then a struggle for power in the Soviet Empire in which Nikita Kruschev came out on top. It was in the infancy of his leadership that the plan to turn a desert in to an ecosystem began. And the plan was this: To build the largest irrigation canal that this Earth has ever seen. And in 1954 the Karakum Canal was being built. When finished it was going to be 500 miles of pure irrigation madness. There was just one little problem – where would they get all that water from in a desert? The answer lay in the foot of the impressive Pamir Mountains in which the longest river in Central Asia flowed out of – known as the Amu Darya.

The Amu Darya, such a large river the name actually translates into “sea” or “big river,” had enough water to provide the Karakum Canal with the water it needed for irrigation. It would take over 3 decades to complete the canal but it was completed, not only that but the Karakum Canal was a success! Canals started springing up all along the Amu Darya and her sister to the North, Syr Darya, mainly growing cotton and rice. It quickly became the staple in these Middle Earth countries. Even today the Karakum Canal still reigns as the largest irrigation canal in the world. The long flowing arms of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya became economic goldmines. The Syr Darya’s name means “Great Pearl” because of the fresh glacial sediment pouring off the mountains giving the color of wet cement. The sources of these rivers were useful to the Soviet agenda as well. Deep in the vast Pamirs the Soviets were brewing another plan to harness the powers of these glacial rivers.

Secret Picture of the Nurek DamTucked in the Pamir Mountains, in the quiet country of Tajikistan, a town was created that never existed before. The town of Nurek was built out of necessity and still exists. Like a relic from a long forgotten past a statue of Lenin, the godfather of the Soviet Union, adorns the town even today. The town was created for one job – to build the tallest dam in the world and then staff it and run it. The Nurek Dam was born. The Nurek Dam provides electricity for 98% of the country in the past and currently. It is still an essential part of the Tajik lifestyle. Families take vacations to the Dam’s reservoir and swim in the pristine blue glacial waters. The government is so concerned about security with it that they allow almost no pictures of it – you are lucky to find 4 on the internet. The river the Nurek Dam sits on – the Vakhsh River – used to flow into the pearly Syr Darya but it is now used to power an entire country. The Soviet Union only saw success in their eyes: the longest canal, the tallest dam. Surely they questioned what it is they couldn’t do. Their legacy carries on today as a heavy portion of the world market of cotton comes from this area of the world because of the irrigation canals these two rivers fed, and the Nurek Dam is still the tallest fully functioning dam in the world.

The Death of the Amu and Syr Darya:

Now, while all this was happening the Aral Sea was creating a local mystery. The shoreline of the Aral Sea was receding. The waters edge was quickly becoming more distant. Interestingly enough it was originally branded as a temporary problem. The solution was simple – get some boats, bring them upstream, dredge the nearest canal and pull that water back to the Aral Sea so boats could still go about their business. The water the dredgers brought back were toxic with pesticides and high concentrations of salt. To the fish it was a chemical bath that most did not survive and the result was a plummeting fishing industry in a lake with a still receding shore. In the early 60s the Aral Sea employed 60,000 people in the fishing industry, by the 70’s the industry had dropped 75%. The Aral Sea was in a crisis and the reality of it soon sunk in. The irrigation canals and the dams all diverted the arteries of the Aral Sea across Central Asian desert. Naturally the answer would be to close down the irrigation canals and allow the water to continue to flow in the sea, but too late, these canals help aid a global need for cotton as well as employs thousands. Nobody was in a rush to shut all this down to feed a dying Sea – that, in the rest of the world’s eyes, was a local problem.

By 2000, less than a half century after the last time the Aral Sea was seen at normal levels, the Aral Sea is a wasteland. Piles of salt encrust the sand that used to be full of thriving life and all underwater. When the wind picks up it blows fine pieces of sand, salt, and chemicals across theA dry Amu Darya now barren desert. If Rip Van Winkle himself went to sleep under a tree in front of the Aral Sea Coastline he would wake up aghast at the desert that surrounded him. He would hop on the parched landscape breathing in the sandy heat. Surely it would feel post-apocalyptic. At one point Rip Van Winkle could stop and look up and say “The water should be 30 feet over my head,” because it had been only 50 years earlier. Eventually Rip Van Winkle would find the shoreline – far off in the distance from the original. Once the 4th largest lake in the world it’s now between the 10th and 15th largest… and dropping rapidly. On top of creating the salty, sandy, pesticide-ridden desert the Soviets had one more thing to contribute to the area.

Renaissance Island:

Picture a James Bond movie: James Bond: Renaissance Island. This mission for Bond isn’t easy, he has to infiltrate a forgotten Asian country and reach an island in the middle of a sea undetected. On this island lies one of the most top-secret, deadly, bioweapons facilities on the face of this planet. This is Renaissance Island – a name only a cliche Bond movie could’ve come up with. Once he passes through the test chambers and secretly strangles a few guards Bond finds himself in a clean, white laboratory with the most hazardous materials on the planet: anthrax, bubonic plague, small pox, tularemia. “You’re too late Bond,” the Soviet supervillian appears from behind a secret door blocking his exit in his pressed and decorated uniform, “I’m just about to release these toxins into the world, and you’re too late to stop me.” Normally this is where Bond does something really creative, but in real life Bond never stood a chance. This time the supervillian wins.

Welcome to Vozrozhdeniya Island. Yes, the name really does mean Renaissance. The word renaissance means “rebirth,” so it is interesting that only death was on the mind of so many of the inhabitants. Indeed it is true Vozrozhdeniya Island was host to one of the most top secret, deadly, bioweapons facilities in the world. However, it didn’t always used to be like that. Vozrozhdeniya is the southwestern of the two islands in the Aral Sea. In the 1930’s it was briefly used as a bioweapons testing range but was not considered for some of mankind’s most dastardly work again until the 1950s. Enter Kantubek, the town created for the scientists to live and play in when not working in a top secret bioweapons facility.

Vozrozhdeniya Island is dubbed “the world’s largest biological warfare testing ground.” This facility really did carry those germs mentioned above: anthrax, bubonic plague, small pox, tularemia. Out of Kantubek the men would come to work to create some of the world’s most powerful superstrains. This meant that they would take something like smallpox and make it super resistant to antibiotics making it more easily communicable. But how do we know for sure what was going on in that facility? While many scientists have worked there I have only found two that have spoken about their time there.

Seriously the only picture of the Vozrozhdeniya lab complex not from space on the internet - seriously.In 1992 a man named Ken Alibek defected from Russia to the United States. Alibek and Vozrozhdeniya Island had a special history together. You see, Alibek used to be the former head of the Soviet germ warfare program and just so happened to have worked on Vozrozhdeniya himself. He openly admits to the atrocious strains they worked on. He claims to have been ordered to prepare a strain of anthrax, small-pox, and bubonic plague to be put in a warhead aimed at the United States – New York, Boston, Chicago. Openly Alibek admits that in a certain scenario the devastation would be catastrophic. Animal testing was common on the Island; guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, cows, horses, donkeys and even monkeys were all animal victims of the facility. Like a funhouse from Hell the animals would be pulled through unknown corridors and led to dead ends where agonizing and terrible Death lay waiting to be fed Life sautéed in disease.

They tested at night, hidden from the secret eye of satellites, it was when the sun set that the animals must’ve backed in to a corner of their cage fearing their “turn.” Open air testing with biological weapons is universally agreed as a bad idea, yet on Vozrozhdeniya it was common practice. The Soviets, however, did attempt some level of containment. They figured insects or birds could be nearby during the open-air testing thusly transferring some superstrain to the mainland. To solve this little problem the Soviets poisoned the whole testing area to kill off anything around that happened to be alive. This is to ensure those insects are dead before any serious biological weapons are tested, some have taken issue with this practice claiming that it guarantees nothing, but the Soviets took no mind. After the open-air testing facility is freshly poisoned it is time to bring the animal(s) out to be subjected to some of the most wretched diseases on the planet. Alibek describes one night: “The cloud would start moving towards the monkeys. They were crying because they knew they would die.” Afterwards they’d be studied until they languishingly succumbed to death – Alibek claims thousands of animals died through this method.

The other man I found was named Gennadi Lepyoshkin who was a supervisor of scientific teams on Vozrozhdeniya Island in the 1970’s. He recalls the still fresh and deep Aral in which they swam during their off time. The island was “beautiful.” From Lepyoshkin we gather a more relaxed atmosphere even claiming one woman who dropped a petri dish of anthrax and tried to cover it up was not even punished for her action, “Nobody got sick” he says. Plus not all work Lepyoshkin worked on was negative: “We discovered new methods to improve the immune system. We developed an anthrax vaccine that was given to the whole army, and it’s considered to be the best in the world. Same with our plague vaccine; it’s been used more than 40 years.” Yet I wonder if he really believed the benefits outweighed the drawbacks. Lepyoshkin on his feelings for testing biological weapons of horror:

I knew the weapons would never be used. When nuclear weapons were made, no one thought they would be used. You’d have to be mad to use them. But now that there’s terrorism, it’s more scary. You know biological weapons are cheap. We calculated that to achieve an effect on one square kilometer (and by ”effect,” he explains, he means killing about half of the population) it costs $2,000 with conventional weapons, $800 with a nuclear weapon, $600 with a chemical weapon and $1 with a bioweapon. One dollar.

Unfortunately the story of Vozrozhdeniya Island gets worse. One dark night in 1988 a train was heading towards the Aral Sea carrying 100 tons of anthrax. There were orders straight from Moscow to bury the anthrax on Vozrozhdeniya and to never speak of it again. Covered in bleach they were shipped to the island in steel barrels. Officials decided instead of burying them in the barrels they would just dump them in pits and pour a little more bleach on it just to be sure. In 1991 the island was abandoned altogether becoming one of the most hazardous places on the planet.

The Aral Sea Disaster:

The Aral Seashore todayMan. The Aral Sea sure has its fair share of stories. And they come together in a putrid parade of human ignorance. The dreams that the irrigation canals and the dams were supposed to fulfill gave birth to nightmares that thrived the further down the rivers you traveled. The irrigation canals did do their job – they created plenty of arable land to make cotton. In fact today in Uzbekistan an ancient communist dictator is still in charge of the country which he uses as his own personal cotton-picking slave business. In this video they ask a child how long shes been picking cotton and she responds “for a long time.” This is what she is forced to do for “school.” When picked the workers (slaves) are forced to sell it to the government for below market price so the corrupt leadership can make a profit. The region using these canals sell a serious portion of global cotton to the world, so it makes one wonder what one could be inadvertently contributing to when they simply buy clothes. Cotton is known as “white gold” for a reason. And on top of that they load the cotton with pesticides poisoning the canals and the river water that did make it to the Aral Sea.

In fact it was the pesticides flowing into the Aral, the heavily increased salinity in the area, and the unique batch of poison and diseases of Renaissance Island that left the sea null of life by the 1980s. It took a matter of about two decades to eliminate all life from the Aral. The water has decreased at an unparalleled rate. Reports currently fear the Sea’s disappearance in under a decade – and any satellite picture shows it too. It was as if the Vozrozhdeniya bioweapons facility manufactured a disease that could cause terrible cancer – not to humans – but bodies of water. From space one would watch the Aral Sea slowly look more ill up until the present where the Aral looks sickeningly like a skeleton of her former self. She is not being fed and she has become emaciated.

A good idea at the rate the 4th largest lake disappearedWhat is the Aral Sea like today on the ground? Put simply – awful. It’s even worse than in 2000, the Aral Sea was everything to the locals, it even gave them milder summers and winters in a land that was already known for extremes. The Aral Sea is now a dry, salty, desert. When the wind picks up here the fine particles of sand, pesticides, and poison make a “chemical cocktail,” a term I’ve only heard used describing the air of the Aral Sea. And when this wind picks up, some of it doesn’t land until it’s as far as the Antarctic, or even further. Lime disease, all sorts of cancer, anemia and tuberculosis are all running rampant in the Aral Sea region. The infant mortality rate has risen in the area as well. Doctors without Borders, something that has previously been chiefly used in war-zones, have committed themselves to aiding the Aral Sea problem as their first environmental cause. Yes, it is that bad. Abandoned boats are strewn across this desert leaving the eerie feeling of death. Maybe it’s because the Aral Sea is literally now a desert, void of life – or maybe it’s because you are standing around ships in that desert – the only desert on Earth covered in ships.

If you pass the barren coastal towns, pass the abandoned desert ships, hike through the searing desert with snowpiles of salt as wind pummels your pores with fine toxic particles, you will come to the sea’s edge. It’s still there for the time being. The salinity is so high it is now compared to the Dead Sea – the lowest point on mainland Earth. Walk along the edge of the water pondering humanity for a while and come to the newly formed land-bridge that now connects you to the Renaissance Peninsula. In 2001, the 10 year anniversary of the Soviets abandoning one of the most toxic islands on the planet, Vozrozhdeniya, she shed her Island title in place for the fancier “Peninsula.” Vozrozhdeniya rejoined the mainland as waters decreased to its consistent record low. Rodents and other animals now have open access to one of the most lethal areas on the planet.

One of the many abandoned ships in the Aral DesertIn 1995 a U.S. Department of Defense mission found its way to Vozrozhdeniya shortly before it turned into a peninsula. What drove them to this wretched corner of the Earth was again Ken Alibek, the defector from Russia:

It is clear, when you destroy tons and tons of their weapons, it wouldn’t be possible to kill everything. And now, what we know, is this island is contaminated.

And he was right. They found the anthrax pits, took some samples back, and found that they were still alive and could even be used for a potential terrorist plot. In 2002 the U.S. returned, this time with the intent of destruction. 8 warehouses were burned on the freshly created peninsula. Just because the island is one of the most noxious places on the Earth, it does not necessarily keep people away. Chris Pada is the only reporter I’ve found to have visited the island (he also interviewed Lepyoshkin). He did this by meeting up with a group of locals about to head to the abandoned peninsula. He called these people “scavengers” because they have been stripping apart the facility and the town since 1996 to sell or use the parts. While Pada notes the respectful silence the scavengers give to this infamous town the general attitude is unworried (“I don’t see any microbes”). Pada also noticed the 8 burned warehouses that the U.S. government destroyed earlier in the year. An unnerving fact is that Pada found many things the warehouses held still intact, but a U.S. Defense Department Official still claims all the anthrax is destroyed from the bleach pits they were buried in a decade earlier.

Whatever has claimed to have been done to neutralize the island does not compensate for some strange diseases occurring around the dying watermass. Even during the Soviet time, in 1971, a superstrain of smallpox had reached mainland from a scientist on a boat in the Aral Sea. In 1999 a 9-year old boy who lived near the shores of the Aral Sea died of the plague. Also in 1999 there were two cases of anthrax infecting people in Kazakhstan near the sea.

The Aral Sea seemed to hit rock-bottom with experts agreeing on no hope of a complete recovery. What was once the fourth largest lake in the world turned in to a massive dustbowl covered in salt plains. The rain is less frequent, the air more deadly, the temperatures more extreme, the wind more harsh. However in the Aral’s darkest hour some hope still lies yet for this doomed sea.

A New Hope – The North Aral Sea:

While the Amu Darya fed the Aral Sea from the south, the Syr Darya fed the Aral Sea from the North seemingly splitting the lake in half. The Syr Darya created the smaller northern region in Kazakhstan connecting through a small 8 mile gap to the larger southern portion mainly in Uzbekistan. It is in the much smaller northern region where progress is being seen today, no matter how small. The Kazakhstan government couldn’t save the whole sea but they realized that the 8 mile dam could amputate the dead and decaying southern portion from the much healthier northern portion. The Kazakhstan government, whose maximum spending ability is less than half of Wal-mart’s profit for 2006, put together $68 million to build a dam known as the Kok-Aral. The Kok-Aral has become the center of attention for those who still live by the Aral, it has helped regain 40% of its surface area since the dam was built and the water raised over 9 feet using just the Syr Darya.

The Aralsk harbor - the sea hasn’t returned yetAn issue with the dam is that it is low, which will not allow the North Aral Sea to reach previous levels, and so with a $126 million loan from the World Bank, a second dam is going to be attempted. Those who live by the northern section of the Aral Sea are ecstatic. Everything from better weather to a renewed fishing industry is giving everybody a positive attitude. The dam is a local attraction and people like to hang about it fishing. An ecosystem is being restored here. A sign in Aralsk, once the greatest fishing port on the sea, is patiently waiting for its return. A sign in the town reads “The sea has left our harbor, but it hasn’t left our hearts.

Ultimately though, the northern part of the Aral Sea is just a fraction of the entire thing. The feeling of hope quickly dissipates the farther south one goes past the Kok-Aral dam. There are no easy solutions to this problem. Uzbekistan has an archaic self-absorbed government that shows no signs of saving its portion of the sea. The profit from the cotton slave business is good enough for now, even as the salt from the receding sea and excessive pesticides kills arable land daily.

How to make a sea disappear in just 5 decadesThe story of the Aral Sea is a sad one. Even if the northern part returns to previous levels it will no longer be considered anywhere near the 4th largest lake in the world. It will have rejoined a class of mediocre lakes all around the world. But what’s the point of this Aral Sea story, why did I go so in depth into it? Well the question I ask myself, and I ask all of you, is this a trend that will be repeated in the future? The Aral Sea is not the only ecological disaster and they are not shrinking in numbers. There are trails of garbage miles long in the most remote parts of the Pacific. There is a radioactive town and forest in Ukraine. In China one of the world’s longest rivers is almost void of life because of pollution. At first these things seem to start small, for convenience. Is the Aral Sea a manifestation of future events or is it a freak accident?

The evidence points to the former. The reason why the Aral Sea began to shrink and die was not because of a natural climate shift, it was first and foremost a man-made disaster. But the irrigation canals were not made for pure evil purposes, they were simply made to ultimately create a profit. While there are plenty of benefits and positive aspects to capitalism, with the human population growing at an exponential rate, there are only more unlimited wants in an otherwise limited planet, so a greater need for resources is a natural reaction. Fresh water seems to be resource of the future and we can see how quickly it can disappear. The Aral Sea is disappearing in less than a half-century. That is less than one lifetime. I am here to suggest some humble wisdom for the human race that is likely on the minds of anybody who ever thinks of these things – not everything can be a game. In physics we’ve learned how relative everything can be, but even in physics there are admittedly some things that are not relative. This is also true for life. The need for freshwater for plants, animals, and humans is something that needs to be heavily invested in without profit or even an attempt at profit. If one is greedy with water and attempts to profit off of it then one is most likely guilty of some of the most awful crimes of life. Water was not made for Company/Government/Person A to pollute and Company/Government/Person B to profit and yet this is exactly the direction our planet is heading in without a bit more sincerity to our home. The Earth is our home and it is the only thing that provides for us – nothing else does. As I will explain in a different entry those who sniff future profits are attempting to monopolize the water “business.” But if you are still certain that disasters like Aral only come from incompetent archaic rulers, it just might be time to reconsider.

 

Is this our future?

I encourage discussion, comments, and clicking on the links. I really looked hard for them and it is where most of my information came from. The videos are amazing and the articles are thought-provoking. For such a terrible disaster it is almost not spoken about. Some of the articles I had to use were years old just because of the lack of reporting from the region. Any other things on the Aral Sea, feel free to share.

The 2008 Presidential Primaries

Update: May 2011 – Hey, if you like my writing, you should check out my new website: Sustainable Diversity with fresh new and more in depth material!

This entry had me stumped for many days. I wanted to give an open assessment of each candidate but the length and drollness of it kept me at bay from going too far with it. Instead I’ve decided to focus on all the candidates that matter, the implications of each candidate, and what you should most likely expect from each candidate. I have nothing to lose or gain by posting this and you will know who I support and why just simply by reading. I also feel I’m not going to be using any tricks or misinformation, I’m simply going to point at warning signs or signs of good will that each candidate shows. I will explain why I picked each candidate and why I’ve ignored others. Of course, I do believe, anything is possible so maybe somebody will win the primaries that I ignored – considering that I am making this assessment before even the first primary vote is taken – is not an impossibility.

For Republicans I will discuss the following candidates: Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul.

For Democrats I will discuss the following candidates: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Dennis Kucinich.

So, it might be reasonable on why I didn’t choose to talk about someone like Alan Keyes, Tom Tancredo, or Chris Dodd but what about candidates like John Edwards, Fred Thompson, or Mitt Romney… why aren’t they involved? They have consistently higher polls than Kucinich, Huckabee, and Paul and yet I’ve chosen latter three over the former. Why?

Because I’m being realistic. This close to the primaries there needs to be a strong support base with a solid message or they need to have high polls. Kucinich, Paul, and Huckabee all have the former while Edwards, Thompson, and Romney don’t have the former or the latter. Edwards has hardly moved in polls staying around a tepid 12%, the only news where we hear his name is after a debate night where he seemed to have spent most of his time attacking Hillary. Thompson was supposed to battle Giuliani for top-position but has only slipped in polls. So let’s begin:

Feeding time for the majestic Republican

Republicans:

What does it mean to be a Republican? The answer is not that simple. It is within the Republican party that neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalists have found their niche but to be a Republican does it simply mean one must praise the neoconservatives, who abused our trust in the Bush Administration, and support Intelligent Design, which is direct contradiction to the internationally recognized and accepted biology? No. There are many Republicans out there who joined the party because they support smaller government, less bureaucracies, and less red tape from the government as well as support community unity, manners, and trust. The candidates I’ve selected above will speak loudly about what the Republican party is offering the people in the 2008 Presidential Election. First up:

John McCain:

The Republican primaries are close right now here in early December and I’ve chosen McCain to be my “alternate” candidate. In reality this position could be filled by Romney or Thompson depending on how the election cycle starts to begin. I don’t see McCain as a man who is selling something much different than the other two. He seems to stay well within the Republican “safe-zone” spinning the web of rhetoric not much different than most Republican candidates. He’s typical – he supports continued involvement in Iraq which he claims is the “battleground” against terrorism. He bases his beliefs off of the idea that we need to fight “them” over there so we don’t have to fight “them” over here. He also believes it shows weakness to leave Iraq and he is a candidate that truly believes, with enough support, we can stabilize the country.

John McCain everybody!This, of course, goes against the common sense understanding that no 3rd world country has ever became a working democracy no matter how much support they’ve received (and we give a lot of support – about 12 billion dollars a month (which is 3 billion dollars a week… over 400 million a day). His rhetoric on terrorist fighting is not fact. There is nothing that proves that fighting Iraqis in Iraq is keeping terrorists from attacking the United States. In fact, logic tells us, that because we are personally affecting more people there will be more people who want to harm the United States giving them numbers which give them the ability to attack both home and away. There have been a slaughter of Iraqi civilians since this war started and none of them feel very liberated right now. I don’t say this to demonize McCain, but it is insulting to us as citizens as well as to the Iraqis to play “Daddy” for a different country. The concept should be insulting to you, who is this politician who believes he has a right to continue meddling in a country we had no rhyme or reason going in to in the first place. Where is our integrity as a nation when we don’t admit we’re wrong and continue to mold a Frankenstein’s monster of a creation out of Iraq. The support for the war is low now – as it should be. War is really the last thing we want our politicians engaging in, war is about the destruction of lives including the innocent. Desiring to continue it is shameful. Terrorism needs to be fought through intelligence and while there will still be despotism in the world there are plenty of despotic countries that we don’t just stand by idly, but willingly support, merely for their obedience. If we want to fight terrible dictators, let’s first stop supporting them. China is an extremely repressive country but because of their economic tie it is overlooked.

McCain claims he plans on reforming government as one of his bold moves. But McCain does so well what most politicians do, he says a lot without saying anything. Romney and Thompson also fit this description too. Their differences are trivial at best. McCain on reforming the government (from his website):

John McCain will bring spending under control, veto wasteful, pork-barrel spending bills every time, and keep taxes low. He will reform a tax code that is too complex and too burdensome. John McCain will modernize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. He will bring accountability, choice and competition to underperforming schools, so our children are equipped to take the best jobs of the 21st century.

What does this mean?! pork-barrel spending is abstract. What every last person in the United States might consider pork-barrel spending you might, with your wisdom, choose to have a different opinion. Supporting the War in Iraq is pork-barrel spending. It is a feast for mega corporations (over 400 million more dollars will have been spent on Iraq by midnight tonight) and ignoring that as pork-barrel spending already proves he just is not talking straight with us. Reforming social security, medicare, and medicaid could simply mean privatizing at his profit. And he also is promising to maintain the bossy attitude the Bush Administration has taken upon American Education with a contribution of just under 10%. We just don’t know what he is going to do. He says nothing tangible which is so common in a politician and he offers no serious direction or solutions. People are backing this guy because he is safe. He’s not saying anything extreme so it’s easy to be comforted by mediocrity.

Issues such as the severe inflation aren’t addressed and he assumes he can give tax breaks with a falling dollar and a $400 million dollar a day (I can’t stress it enough) war is possible. He’s also divisive. On that same page he blanketly calls out Democrats to be some sort of conspiracy theorists giving no individuality to the real-life options who are markedly different. Look at what kind words McCain has to say about his healthy democratic rivals:

 

America needs a president who will provide strong moral leadership. A Democrat president will appoint judges who make law with disregard for the will of the people, but to the cheers of those advancing a liberal social agenda.

Holy shit – are we in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia? Seriously. He speaks of democrats as conspiracy theorists… okay – so democrats traditionally want to spend more money on government programs. But not all government programs are bad, and there should be serious consideration to some that would sincerely aid humanity and America. Some form of universal health care would be a financial burden right now, but not if we left Iraq, so McCain is just as guilty of advancing a liberal social agenda. It sounds so Stalinish. Democrats are not evil, they are our friends and our neighbors, even if you do disagree with them on where your money should be spent. Democrats are not morally wrong people and he makes that suggestion by claiming to be a morally correct leader and contrasting with what the opposite is. He’s deceitful. And, just so you know, I’m not a Democrat.

 

John McCain will pursue our opportunity for victory in Iraq, strengthen our hand in the larger war against Islamic extremists, and make our nation more secure. Democrats will fold our tents, embolden our enemies, throw the region into instability, and increase the risks faced on our home soil. To concede defeat now would strengthen al Qaeda, empower Iran and other hostile powers in the Middle East, unleash a full scale civil war in Iraq that could lead to genocide

I find it remarkable that a Republican has the tenacity to say with (another) blanket statement on Democrats claiming that they will embolden the enemy when it was the Republicans who clearly have already done so. International approval among friendly and enemy states has gone down under a Republican’s watch whom he wants largely to emulate. Iraq never had anything to do in terrorism but yet the two are now interlinked and McCain is a man who takes no issue to carrying on that large myth. At the same time no serious attention is put to alternative energy sources or lowering the price of oil (other than drilling our own which just sounds like lip smacking for money). He shows no interest in restoring Constitutional Rights and will largely carry on many of the negative traits the current Bush Administration carries. Thompson and Romney would also fit the bill nicely to do mostly nothing different at all. The problem with this is that even though this sort of campaign is largely wrong and harmful for America, it is quite comfortable for many of us now and those of us who don’t mind the extra stretch of cash want to see more people like Bush. The problem is more Bush politics will become increasingly unsustainable for the country and things will eventually hurt.

Mike Huckabee:

Huckabee is the one of many candidates from my personal Hell. Why? Let’s ask him:

My faith is my life – it defines me. My faith doesn’t influence my decisions, it drives them.

Man. I’m not hating on this former minister. There are a lot of people who really benefit from these kinds of circles, I was exposed to them when I was younger and while they were not for me, they most certainly were for some people and they seemed to live better lives because of it. However, obviously, just like everything else – not all of them do. Huckabee is McCain in flavor with a Baptist twist and baptists rival born-again Christians about being most passionate (both negatively and positively) about their faith in God.

I will try and explain this as rationally as possible: While Christianity can be and is currently used for as a positive influence in the world today that does not mean #1) That it has never driven people to faulty decisions and #2.) That it supercedes other beliefs which also have positive influences on the environment… be them a.) different religions or b.) non-religious. This is the 21st Century, there are nuclear weapons on this Earth, there is an international economy, there is a dizzying array of responsibilities that a President must handle and Huckabee’s answer to things seems to be his baptist version of Christianity, including those things that aren’t baptist or even Christian. His strongest policies that he supports are Christianizing public places, forcing marriage to be defined as between a man and a woman, more Iraq war fighting of course (cuz it’s the right thing to do), no abortions… like it’s the Christian Fundamentalists final “Fuck you!” to anyone who can rationally comprehend such a thing as a same-sex marriage in a positive light, or who can understand the disturbing underground, unclean, abortion clinics that will re-emerge if abortion is made illegal again. Huckabee couldn’t be a rational Christian that supported the legality of clean abortion clinics yet, perhaps, support well-staffed, clean, no-questions-asked, drop off points for infants, as well as openly encouraging giving a baby away for adoption over abortion, but not actually desire making it illegal and imprisoning someone for being so desperate.

Mike Huckabee lugging his dinner on his back… I kid, I kid.But are these issues even the ones heavily at hand? No. Once again no serious mention of alternative energy sources, the dependency on China, the falling dollar, anything policy-changing outside of religious backing is clouded once again in politico-speak in which McCain uses almost entirely. Yet his rise in polls is rivaling McCain’s and even passing him in some instances as well as nipping on the heals of the kingly Guiliani. But honestly, sincerely, I ask you as American citizens to look toward reason and logic in this election because choosing faith is nothing more than a deer staring in the headlights of an oncoming car. We have serious issues to work on that the world and our own citizens highly agree upon.

I do believe that men like this should serve as political men on levels where they strongly represent a serious majority of the citizens. There are many areas in America where these citizens are proud to have some local or even state laws that represent that heavy Christian taste. But the majority of America is not a Baptist, and he is using his Baptist faith to lead most decisions for a largely non-baptist America. This will lead to internal religious conflict as well as friction between people outside of the Christian religion. This country needs a uniter and those clinging to a 1950’s America where liberties were not treated fairly at all need to let go because it is ultimately an oppressive view. Just as there was haywire about Obama being a secret Muslim, there is no logical reason why Christians shouldn’t understand why, even though we respect their right to their religion, we should not have someone who primarily looks to a Christian God for one of the most important jobs in the world! Undoubtedly the person should have good morals but it is quite possible to not be this religious and have good morals. And “good morals” are SO subjective! We really don’t know how pious he is and his policies seem to be Bush-part-III with the bonus feature of a more forcibly Christianized America. If you are a Christian, please don’t vote based on your religion, we need reason to run a healthy democracy and we need to understand some people in our own country aren’t Christian and can’t just adapt to your world at your will. This is supposed to be a free country, which allows people to make their own decision, it’s improper for the government to make decisions for us in America. People get caught up in what somebody “is” and not what somebody does. Huckabee makes no serious comments outside of the Conservative “safe-zone” in which he’s guaranteed votes aside to grab those Christians starving for a religious governmental leader.

And as Christian as Huckabee claims to be he is most likely a bigger panderer… Huckabee seems to be trying to cover up that he lobbied for the release of a serial rapist and murderer (how low can you go, seriously) because the victim that was raped was a high school daughter of a major Clinton supporter. Ignorantly many Republicans (wished, hoped? I don’t know) that the rapist was only imprisoned to appease Democrats. Even though other women came forward who were raped by the same man Huckabee lobbied to release him from prison.. Once released the rapist went on to rape and murder a couple more women before he was imprisoned again. While Huckabee most likely was not thinking of future victims, he ignored past victims to please the ignorant Republican outcry. Real Republicans (or Christians) would never lobby to release a rapist from prison. So what does Huckabee do when asked to see the papers that could prove his innocence… once again for security and safety he claims nobody is allowed to see them. Huckabee is just another politician who uses God as a sideshow.

Rudy Giuliani:

Giuliani would spawn out of the same Hell that Huckabee would come from. I can handle the average Conservative jargon with such things as McCain spews, but while Huckabee nightmarishly desires restarting the cycle of a government ruled by religion (a religious government was what the first European-Americans were victims of), Giuliani is like the closet tyrant. Outwardly he’s seemingly charismatic, tough, and compassionate. This is only, of course, if you automatically go in to a trance when you hear the numbers 9 and 11 in successive order. Don’t believe me? You should.

Well so what, he talks about September 11th… a lot… like incessantly. But why shouldn’t he? He took control of the situation (one might argue) and handled it professionally, on top of that it’s common knowledge that it was Rudy and Rudy alone that cleaned up the city. But is this true? When asking the people directly involved and not obeying the mayor simply on his say-so there seems to be different picture. First of all Rudy Giuliani insisted the Emergency Response Center, in case of disasters such as the September 11th attacks, be placed in one of the very buildings destroyed (mysteriously) during the attack. When Giuliani insisted it was his Director of Emergency Management who suggested it go there both the Director and Chris Wallace called bullshit on Giuliani because it was Rudolph Giuliani who insisted the Emergency Response Center be placed within the World Trade Center. The problems with this: #1 – There had already just been a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and #2. – Even when he was caught lying about it he did not admit it. A trustworthy and honorable president? No. But since we’ve set our standards so low we seem to have no serious desire to raise them according to our polls.

On top of that firefighters are openly contemptuous at Giuliani for some of the decisions he did make as well as the credit he took during the crisis. As for the city being cleaned up… surely the Police Department of New York City will back the mayor… well the President of the largest New York City police union, the PBA of the city of New York, claims Giuliani is not fit to be the President of the United States. So where firefighters and police officers became heroes on September 11th, it is those same people who are now calling out Giuliani on his lies and insatiable desire for credit deserved by others, that the self-proclaimed most patriotic American people are ignoring for the charismatic Giuliani-speak.

Come. On. Tower of Strength? Did he suggest that title himself?This is why Giuliani frightens me so. He offers many of the same empty promises other typical Republicans make. He wants to stay in Iraq, spend more money on military (it already crushes the next closest competitor multiple times over) , he wants to completely secure out borders which sounds expensive and Stalinist, he also offers to lower taxes. He makes absolutely no mention once again of the dollar that is worth well less than the Canadian dollar because of the massive spending we’re doing currently. Giuliani wants only to continue to most expensive spending while pandering to the corporate elite that siphon off our funds in Iraq. His mention of alternative fuels is obviously amateur considering the impeding issues there are with using things like ethanol fuel and ignoring such potential gold mines like algae. But Giuliani has a special flavor to him of an intoxicating desire for total control. Not only does he want to “completely secure” our borders, stay in Iraq, spend more on military, but he also demands a unified national identification system which is un-American to the bone. Aside from it being the funeral pyre for the checks and balances the states are supposed to impose on the national government, it also is a very risky, highly unsafe, and easy to tamper with system. It is not the governments job to keep tabs on us, we are not the governments children, we are adults living within an adult society in which we as openly as possible understand there are alternative ways of doing things and that is exactly what makes us free – allowing us options. I can almost see Giuliani at night huddled in the corner staring at his hands whispering about how America will be within those hands soon. He does not rule by logic, he does not rule by reason, he rules by force and that is the scariest thing to support and promote.

So how did Giuliani really handle New York City? Well let’s watch a video of a town hall meeting in which he is being criticized for something, let’s see how he handles it. First the Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest transit union in North America, the entire continent. And the President of the Staten Island division basically calls Giuliani out on some corruption charges. Now whether they are true or not, with complete impartiality, let’s see how Giuliani reacts:

When the corruption charge arises he immediately dismisses it refusing the man to not even present his case telling him to “get out of here.” The man continues to try and talk and Giuliani repeatedly denies him causing the audience to start booing Giuliani! To stop the booing what does Giuliani do? He appeals to the audience of course by telling the man he’ll give him another chance to explain his case… of course with one exception… “cut out irresponsible stupid ridiculous charges.” In other words he is allowing the man to present his argument as long as it’s not critical towards Giuliani. The man was allowed to present one small fact before Giuliani cut him off calling them “ridiculous” again before the man was allowed to make a valid point. At this point Giuliani rudely talks over the man and directs a crony to remove the mic from him as the crowd vehemently boos him. He simply states “I do not talk to people who accuse me of corruption.” Not talking about it does not make it less of a fact for a union president of the largest transit union in North America. Plus in positions of such high power it is only respectable to disseminate any concern of corruption. Giuliani chooses to treat the man the same way one would treat a child if he had sworn into the microphone. In other words he treats the man the way a tyrant would. He removes his freedom of speech and ability to criticize simply at the mayor’s say-so.

Then… he calls the audience a “bunch of immature idiots” for being visibly upset for not being heard. A top running candidate for president of this country takes care of official public business by dismissing them all as a “bunch of immature idiots” then shortly after followed by “You all look too irresponsible to be bus drivers.” He is speaking to these people like children! This is frightening. This is a first class ticket to fascism. “I know the kindergarten does a lot better than these guys,” when they simply had a charge they were not even allowed to bring up. The people got up and left, it might be the right move to do if Giuliani wins presidency. Don’t you hear his policy? He is saying he can make decisions and then refuse to talk to you if you charge him of corruption which means in his mind he’s allowed to be corrupt because he’s not allowed to be questioned about it. Any man who believes he’s too pious to be questioned should not be the President of the United States.

On top of all this, of course, is a scandal that Giuliani is now pretending to not be accountable for. When documents are asked to be produced to clear him, the old Bush excuse “for security purposes” those documents can’t be released. This is old. We need some standards.

Ron Paul:

Out of all of the candidates I chose to talk about Ron Paul is the one with the average lowest Republican approval rating according in national polls. However Ron Paul has a few remarkable aspects that show things might not be as they seem in the polls. Let’s start with the stuff that doesn’t really matter but most people focus on anyway – He has been married once and only once, someone like Giuliani goes from mistress to mistress granting them wifedom and leaving again. Ron Paul had served honorably in Vietnam, Dan Rather is still disputing whether Bush even stayed the time he said he was going to. He has been elected to Congress 10 times by a deeply conservative Texas which shows that he is in line with the Republican party even though people are constantly accusing him of being “out of step” with his party. Ron Paul has been honored with the “Taxpayer’s Friend” award… for 10 years in a row. Ron Paul serves on the Financial Services, Foreign Policy, and Joint Economic Committees which shows his level of expertise in these areas.

Honest, sincere, and thoughtful. We all hate that in a politician.Here are some more Ron Paul facts to show he is not a fringe candidate. Ron Paul has consistently raised more money than the previous quarter this whole year, already topping his 3rd quarter. This can not be said about any other Republican candidate. Giuliani, Romney, McCain, and Huckabee all stalled. In the fourth quarter (which we are still in) Ron Paul raised more than $4.2 million… in one day most likely becoming the largest funded candidate in the Republican race. He also votes consistently and on principle which is completely unheard of with most politicians. Ron Paul has shown up to all debates he has been invited to, even the ones many of the other candidates claimed to be too busy to go. Ron Paul has received more money from military organizations than any other GOP Presidential Candidate. It is interesting that many of those who were chastising Americans for not supporting the Iraq War (because it is a factually illegal war started under false pretenses) by claiming the American people dissenting were not “supporting the troops” are eager to ignore the same call to honor on supporting who the troops want for president. Ron Paul also wants a transparent government (Wake up call – what free country doesn’t?). On top of that Ron Paul has never voted for an increase of his salary in his whole time in government and always takes some of his salary and puts it back in to the government. These are facts about Ron Paul he does not waver on:

-He believes strongly in the Constitution.

-He believes we should have an non-interventionist foreign policy (read: NOT isolationist) and not police the world.

-He wants to remove our troops from Iraq.

-He wants competing currencies and/or the American dollar backed by something more than a printing press.

-He’s a stickler for civil liberties.

-He wants to be fiscally responsible (and has proven with his years in congress as well as in his campaign he can be).

-He wants to give power back to the States and the individual people of this country.

Now when Giuliani was criticized earlier he responded not by saying “Let me clarify what you are accusing me of…” but instead “I do not talk to people who accuse me of corruption” and then insulting his accusers, let’s see how Ron Paul responds to criticism. After Ron Paul raised his $4.2 million in one day Paul was in a unique position to be crushed. By raising his money the mainstream media had to pay attention to him and so Wolf Blitzer took his opportunity with Ron Paul to marginalize him by bringing up all of the times Paul was the only representative (out of 425 people!) to vote against the grain. Blitzer brought up bills voted against bringing up things about genocide all the way to even refusing Rosa Parks a medal. How did Paul respond? At about 5:50 into this video you will see Paul responds… intelligently, even claiming to have offered to give Parks a medal out of his own pocket.

Time and time again Paul speaks to reason and logic. Huckabee argues that when we make a mistake we make it as a single, unified nation and we must follow through with it as a single unified nation, Paul says it’s our responsibility to admit and fix the mistake, not continue it. Then Huckabee airily goes in to abstractions about honor, as if the Bush Administration has any of it whatsoever. McCain calls Paul an isolationist for this attitude (though time and time again he has corrected that lie) and accuses Paul of being the type of person to allow dictators such as Hitler to come in to power. Paul responds logically by reminding us that Iraq had no army, navy, or weapons of mass destruction and there was no serious threat to the world.

He’s somebody who is really working for the people.So with all of these good things about Paul, why isn’t he a frontrunner on the polls. Most likely raking in more money than any other GOP candidate this quarter the reflections should be in the polls, right? Well not exactly. There have been claims that Ron Paul is not getting put in to all the polls or there are facts that mainstream media has been censoring Paul’s success. Mainstream media is a big decider for the American people on which candidates to take seriously and which ones not. By nature the more time devoted to a candidate in a debate or anything the more credible the candidate seems. American people have put their trust into the media expecting that if they spend their time on a candidate he must be credible. When the mainstream does focus on Ron Paul the things said are redundant – he’s an “internet sensation” but claims him not to be a serious contender because his sensationalism is not creating a rise in the polls for him. The debates have also been debilitating. In the recent CNN-Youtube debate over half the time was giving to about two frontrunners on the topic of immigration, which is not even the biggest issue of this election. Ron Paul, a financial frontrunner was hardly given any attention. And the attention given to him was made to paint him as a conspiracy theorist. Even the question at the bottom of the screen is written as “Does Ron Paul believe in a conspiracy…?” He responded logically and reasonably muting any marginalizing comments about him now believing in a conspiracy. The Canadian government and even CNN themselves have knowledge about the factuality of what they allowed to be called a “conspiracy” just to slam Ron Paul.

During the Fox debate Paul had to suffer the same kind of marginalization from candidates despite his credentials and credibility. He’s attacked by the host, Hannity, Giuliani disrespectfully laughs when Paul speaks factual and cited truths, and his win in the polls was dismissed by Hannity as most likely people voting multiple times. Despite all of this the American people still seem to notice Paul’s genuine and very American stance. Even Tucker, who claims to agree with Paul, has a guest that simply slanders without citation. Tucker introduces Stein as one who is “studying” the success of Ron Paul – with somebody who “studies” something you would expect statistical or correlative data. But Stein was happy to use strongly opinionated words to paint Paul as anything but credible. He calls the fans “crazy” and that they only support Ron Paul because they’re confused with the corruption in politics and labels Paul as a “radical” who has used nothing but the U.S. Constitution as his playbook. Then Stein caricaturizes Paul as “adorable” and a “cute little guy.” When Tucker asks a seemingly sincere question, maybe the people who support Ron Paul just like smaller government, Stein paints him as a guy from a movie who almost insanely yells at the government out of anger and dismissing him again as “a radical.” Then our studious reporter calls Paul “confused,” “nerdy,” and says he focuses on “obscure” subjects calling it all “freaky.” The most amazing part is Tucker seems to sell away any support he has for Ron Paul when he brings up that he voted for him last time but always thought he wasn’t a good speaker. Stein corrects Tucker with telling him that Paul is a “horrible” speaker. Then Stein does something really neat, that I think shows the true character of the mindset of those who refuse to treat Paul with credibility:

Stein says you know Ron Paul is “really smart”, and “supposedly his book was really good” (a man who was introduced as one who studies Ron Paul never read the book he mentions). But then Stein says this “You know you’re not going to stay awake for the whole class…” basically saying that the honesty and sincerity of Paul’s desire to work credibly in the position of power is not okay because he won’t be entertaining. And look at Stein – he tries to pull off the laid back messy hair look and when he’s asked a question he answers it as if he just awoke from a stoner slumber like he’s somebody who is so cool and relaxed nothing could bother him. Even the words he uses are totally unprofessional to pull off the image: nerdy, crazy, freaky, adorable, cute, confused, horrible… I would sincerely not be surprised if this guy has a consultant on how to pull off a genuinely fake tv-personality. At any point if Stein was allowed be called one who “studies” it is most definitely not on the subject area of Ron Paul – he admits himself it makes him fall asleep… perhaps Stein is working in the wrong business then, Paul isn’t here for your petty entertainment Stein, he is here to address the problems our nation is currently facing.

These are the barriers an honest and sincere man has to break in order to be treated as a 21st century presidential candidate. While none of the other presidential candidates are as reliable and honest as Paul, no serious attention is given to him in mainstream media. If, for some reason anybody doubts Paul’s credibility to win this primary, I urge them to look at who the American people (not the corporations) are working hard to get elected, and if the American people thought there was a better candidate than Paul why is nobody working as hard for them? Ron Paul is the only honest, sincere, and accountable president running for office who does not have his own un-American agenda, Paul will go directly to the Constitution every time and the minute he stops is the minute all his credibility will fail. There is a Congress and a Judiciary system that is made to make sure his decision is not the only decision – making sure things won’t change so radically people will not be able to handle it – and Ron Paul promises to give Congress, the Judicial Branch, and States all the power the Constitution allows them. Ron Paul just wants a fair and honest political system and nobody can rationally debate that.

The thing is about Ron Paul that strikes me as one of the best choices for president is his ability for the first time in… probably ever… be able to distinguish his personal beliefs from what amount of will he’s allowed to impose on you. So while he is a man who doesn’t agree with homosexuality, abortion, or prostitution he understands the right others have to practice those things and he OPENLY ADMITS he should not be involved. He’s reminding us we have state government too and that’s where we should be looking for most of our laws as well as a local level. He wants us to have our own power and we scoff at him dismissing it as someone we’ve never mets job. This man is an honest impartial gem.

Democrats:

A democrat taking some time for a quick biteWhat does it mean to be a Democrat? Well if them taking control of Congress means anything… then not much. I call it the Democrat paradox. It works like this – many of the democrats in the United States sit back with the smug “I-told-you-so” look on their face with the atrocities of the Bush Administration. “We tried…” they’ll argue with the close elections of both Gore and Kerry. It soon comes to be realized many Democrats feel quite certain that any problems that have come out of the last 8 years in Washington has strictly been because of Republicans in power. In other words Democrats think “It’s not our fault.” Thus the paradox begins – despite Democrats taking control of the Congress and doing truly nothing to restore the checks and balances the Bush Administration is bullying away, because the president was not Democrat it is not the Democrats responsibility to take care of the problems that have occurred because of the Republicans.

Hillary Clinton:

Hillary Clinton may just be the worst presidential nominee out of both Republicans and Democrats, yet she is in the lead in the polls. What astounds me is the desire of the American people for only 2 families to rule the country for over 2 decades. Hillary Clinton keeps being described as “tough as nails” making her a serious contender for these elections but she, just like McCain or Giuliani is heavy in politico-speak. That’s the rhetoric that allows someone to use a lot of words without actually saying anything. How do I know? Take a look at her issues page, she is the first candidate I’ve seen who has 12 different pictures of herself on the same page. Oh look – there’s Hillary giving a speech, oh! and look – there’s Hillary greeting some people, oh and look at that! There’s Hillary talking to an old lady – I didn’t know she talked to old ladies too… oh and there’s Hillary looking picturesque, I want a president who can look picturesque. 12 images of herself. And we have to take this woman seriously? Okay well what does she promise? I may just be over-exaggerating. Well she claims she plans on bringing troops from Iraq home – oh… after Iraq is basically a stable democratic government… so in other words our troops aren’t coming home. Many of the other things she stands for requires no action at all on her part: a champion for women, fulfilling promises, being innovative… these are abstract things that once she is elected she can remove from her page and claim she is working on them locking them away in a closet until it’s convenient to use them to make herself look good.

… But there’s one thing we know about Hillary that we know she will do for a fact. She wants to be known as “The Health Care President.” And this is what I’m talking about with politico-speak. She carefully weaves her way around the Iraq issue as well as other issues using a vast array of words that basically could mean anything. But she is concrete about one thing: federal health care for all. You know how honest a candidate is depending on how many concrete things they say – this is Clinton’s only honest point. But there is a problem, we do not live in Hillary Clinton dreamland where she is allowed to make up whatever comprehensive bureaucracies she desires. President Bush is effectively draining billions of dollars in Iraq as well as other comprehensive national security interests which Hillary Clinton supports! There is not enough funding to keep the big-brother attitude of the Bush Administration and give comprehensive Health Care a fair attempt. The American dollar is plummeting because of the excess spending that is occurring and starting a comprehensive national health care program will cost hundreds of billions of more dollars to be done right.

In a recent debate Hillary Clinton was asked a very unique question that to anybody else would seem a trick question. She was asked if national security is more important than human rights… her response? “I agree with that completely.” Human rights means one thing – treating a human like a human – not like a pile of crap, a pile of garbage, a consumer, a special interest group, a cow for the slaughterhouse… but a human. When we effectively allow the president of our country claim that security is more important than treating people with the respect of being the same species as herself, we’ve effectively removed whatever freedom we have left in this country.

Hillary Clinton straight off her issues page:

Americans are ready for a government that puts competency ahead of cronyism. For the past six years, we’ve had an administration that has contempt for government. And because they view it with contempt, they treat it with contempt. We need a return to transparency and a system of checks and balances, and a 21st century government to meet our 21st century challenges.

Plastic?Sounds good right? It would but notice that she is absent on the list of those who signed an oath for presidential transparency. Look at the quote again. Look at the link again. One more time. She is not honest. Alone on the statement that she believes national security is more important than human rights will allow her to continue what President Bush is doing – calling information a security risk when it could be used to prove irresponsibility. She has no desire to restore freedoms that the Bush Administration has corroded away… and why would she? She is so powerful she probably sincerely believes she does not have to be held accountable like a human – in her mind her own privacy is more important than her citizens privacy. Her own cronies are popping up over and over again smearing the opposition and getting in scandals. Time and again we ignore these things and accept it as just part of the game of politics. The problem is… politics isn’t a game… it’s the rules of our life. Depending on what a politician decides whether you will be able to have freedom over your own body… or not. Using common sense it can not be good to keep picking our leaders from the same gene-pools especially since this country was specifically founded to circumvent such preposterous leadership. Clinton is part of an American elite family with a lot of power which has only been used to raise herself. Being a resident of New York State I have nothing remarkable to say about Clinton’s Senate run here. She has comfortably found a niche where she will always use politico-speak to justify her actions leaving people confused and ignorant to return back to their unfulfilled lives wondering what they’re doing wrong. Clinton is a thoroughbred politician – made to play the game and know what big businesses to manipulate to always get her way. She will stay in Iraq most likely for her whole term and beyond probably forcing a media highlight when she lowers the troop level by a few thousand about once while she’s in office. She ignores the plummeting dollar and just, again like all the other politicians who have mastered politico-speak, promises to cut excess spending. At the same time she wants comprehensive health care for all Americans… more cost, much more. There is no way to pay for that but she ignores that.

There is no doubt that the health care system in this country needs reforming, but it does not necessarily have to be socialistic. Americans used to be known for their ingenuity… now they are becoming known for their laziness. Other social health care countries do have their problems, including our neighbors to the North. However they are fiscally responsible and our country is not – so what can we do if the social health care problem flops and we have no other options? None of this is addressed by Clinton, just beautiful titles such as “The Health Care President” is what she’s interested in… the logistics aren’t her problem… they’re ours.

Dennis Kucinich:

Okay Naked Man in the Tree… why Kucinich? At least Paul has raised more money than any other Republican candidate but Kucinich lags in all the polls. There are actually a number of reasons to bring up Kucinich in this race… the biggest being he is most likely the most sincere and progressive candidate on the Democratic side (some might argue for Gravel but Kucinich is by far the more exposed of the two). Kucinich highlights something for democrats, and this is exactly what I mean by the Democrat paradox. Lazily they’ll let someone like Hillary go in to power claiming she will restore checks and balances yet allow her to use the same excuses the Bush Administration is currently using to not restore them.

The principled DemocratSo while honest and sincere Republicans are working frantically to get someone like Ron Paul in to office to keep this country American, the Democrats solidly support Hillary. “Hey – Bill wasn’t as bad as Bush, so let’s put his wife in. Case closed.” That is about as far as the average Democrat seems to be thinking. Kucinich, like Paul, is an honest man who seems to be working on principle… a word rarely heard in Washington these days and automatically why his ratings are low. He isn’t attuned to “the game” so he’ll “never win,” you’ll just be “throwing away your vote.” But despite that Joel Stein attitude, we still must focus on Kucinich because he is an honest and principled man.

Dennis Kucinich is the only Democratic Candidate running that voted against authorizing the war in Iraq and against funding its continuation. That’s right – that means Hillary has done the opposite. Dennis Kucinich has a health care plan that actually has been thought through – once again, unlike Hillary. Now I’m not saying Kucinich’s health care plan is the best (though he’s obviously thought smartly through it), but at least he is concise on how it will work, if Hillary respected her citizens she would do the same. Dennis Kucinich supports personal liberty… once again this simply means treating people as people despite whatever they have done, Hillary said it herself… national security is more important. He seems to be the only sincere candidate that deals with the necessities of sustainability. Unlike other candidates he seems to have sincerely thought them through and wants to start implementing honest change that is needed in the 21st century to avoid global catastrophe. He doesn’t say one thing and then do the exact opposite like Clinton, anything he says, you can be sure of his word. At minimum we should have a candidate like that in office. What he stands for is comprehensive and thoughtful and devoid of politico-speak that Clinton has mastered so well to please those in positions of power.

There is only one problem with Dennis Kucinich and it has nothing to do with the man himself. It has to do with the Democrat paradox. There is no backing by the people insistent on fixing what Bush has done wrong in the Democrats. The problem is the most intelligent Democrats- the ones that recognize this paradox on some level – do want to vote for Kucinich. And because of this we need to understand the second part of the Democrat paradox…

Barack Obama:

I’ve purposely left Obama out of the discussion until now. Hillary is the solid front runner. Edwards is not sticking out and I promise you he will not find his support on the campaign. Kucinich has a more loyal backing than Edwards. Because of the Democrat paradox there is really no division within the party (totally unlike the Republican party) and no reason for the Democrats to spread their solidarity. Of course, like anyone, the Democrats like some healthy competition so they have two leading candidates – Clinton and Obama. Now this is where the Democrat paradox gets really complicated. Bare with me.

And he likes wrist bands!Barack Obama, by all counts, seems to be a sincere and honest candidate. While Clinton tyrannically claims security is more important than freedom Obama calmly explained (before Clinton even made her statement) that they are not contradictory but are in fact complimentary… good show old man! That is the correct answer! As our good friend Ben Franklin once said: “”They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Also Obama appears on the list of presidents who would signed a transparency oath… so he puts his money where his mouth is… once again, unlike Clinton. Yet Obama seems to balance the Kucinich in him with the Hillary in him busting out his own politico-speak from time to time and thus the Democrat paradox fully takes its form:

The “I-told-you-so” Democrats sit high on their Clinton fence looking down on the controversy that faces the rest of the election. The Democrats whose thoughts go no further than “Bill was good… so throw in the wife… and give me free health care to boot!” yawn as they wait for the Primaries so they can flick their ballot and get on with important things in life.

Then there are those who have been deeply following the candidates angry at the joke the Bush Administration has created in our government searching desperately for a man (or woman) who can make sense of the whole thing. These are the Kucinich supporters. Unable to make enough noise they sit slumped at the bottom of the polls.

Then there are the Obama supporters, who can see the honest effort of the politician but allow him to get away with some non-answers probably because of his overwhelming charm. Obama has solid potential to be a good, honest, sincere, hard-working, dedicated, president… everything opposite our current one. He doesn’t let fascist viewpoints cloud his critical thinking skills, but because many find Kucinich more engaging there will be a split between Obama and Kucinich with people who largely want the same thing. If all Kucinich supporters supported Obama or vice versa there would most likely be enough to beat Clinton… who would categorically be a bad president.

Conclusion:

I try to live my life as honestly as possible. I understand that my viewpoint is not the only viewpoint in the world and that I must share my beliefs with those who feel differently. What is most important though is that some other group doesn’t end up feeling entitled to tell me… or you… how to live. This much is fact. We need a well balanced and well checked system that has been eroded and eroded to the point of elections becoming nothing more than a joke. “The lesser of two evils” is the way the final elections always go… but 3 candidates really stand out and have a chance – Ron Paul, Barack Obama, and Dennis Kucinich… who are not putting the balls of the nation in a vice (women do not have an extremity that they could put in to a vice that would hurt as much as the balls – I, too, believe in gender equality and can also paint the country as a women at some point in the future).

They would be a pretty respectable matchup, you must admitPersonally I’d love to see Kucinich backers to back up Obama because of the Democrat paradox. While Obama isn’t my ideal choice it really is the realistic choice. A small percentage is the only gap between him and Clinton that Kucinich backers could fill. On top of that the only presidential candidate on the right I’d like to see is Ron Paul. Though the mainstream media does not take him seriously I am here to ask you a very personal question. And I really want you to think about it.

Aren’t you tired of people you’ve never met telling you who is a credible candidate and who isn’t? Aren’t you interested in seeing somebody, for once, run on principle and example rather than by intimidation, secrecy, and lies? Are you not interested in living your single life to the fullest allowing yourself and your community to make your rules and not people in Washington DC? Certainly we all must compromise to live peacefully together but should we trust any of the inconsistent politicians to make those decisions?

Depression and loss of focus are huge issues in this country. Many people are unhappy with how often they work, how much they get paid, and how many arbitrary rules they must follow that it kills them from the inside. Sure – those who are puppets happily adapt to arbitrary rules especially if they are a financial recipient of those arbitrary rules… but isn’t it unfair to play a game with peoples lives? I mean they don’t get another chance at a life. They die and then they stay dead. Never again will they be the person that is under the ground… and to think they spent their whole life treated like a paper that needed to be profited from. Let’s let the billionaires suffer for once… I’m sure it won’t be too awful for them.

My suggestion to you is to vote for Ron Paul and Barack Obama for the 2008 Presidential Primaries. All of you who want to be freed from forced obedience for profit. Ron Paul would force Obama to be more direct and Obama would force Paul to look at things where federal spending might be pertinent. For once in the history of my lifetime in America there will be a solid debate between two principled intellgent candidates. Not a joke like the Kerry-Bush race. This is the 21st Century and we can not spend anymore time holding on to ways of the old. The time to move on is now. Otherwise we will all be forced to suffer the consequences of inaction and stubbornness. This is my realistic suggestion for anybody interested in making sure the debate for president is one that covers comprehensive issues to their foundation. Obama would always have to answer to Ron Paul’s constitutional charges and Ron Paul will have to answer on how much we really can eliminate the federal government in our personal lives or how much is wise to eliminate. Ron Paul draws from very old ideas while Obama is a very current 21st century politician, but the most important thing is I believe they’d both want a fair election and to truly work to help the American people. I encourage commenting on this, I’d love to hear any flaw in reason or logic I’ve made with this. I’d love a logical discussion that focuses on the most progressive campaign for the American people. Please comment.